Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sick and Living Single

stethoscopeAfter many years of exceptional good health I recently came down with a protracted cold and sinus attack. Thankfully I had the foresight to anticipate that my good fortune could not last forever and had stocked up on some basic necessities as well as put in a stash of soup in the freezer.

Having formerly been a wife and mother for many years I was experienced in taking care of a sick person. But that had rarely been me so I did have to adapt to being the person receiving care and not just giving it.

In the past, the times when I was sick the children at least were at home. Children can, with verbal prompts and well-timed limited interventions, manage phone messages, prepare basic meals, and so forth. But they were also company even if they did not come and sit to keep me company because I could hear the sounds as they went about their activities.

Also in the past, if I were too sick or sick for several days, usually someone dropped by to check on the household or bring a meal or get a short shopping list. However, as newly singled as the result of a divorce I have not had the time to develop new relationships that are intimate enough for this level of openness. (note: While this cold has dragged on it has not been life-threatening or at risk of developing into something else.)

One thing that became clear was that our culture, which is already not very single-friendly or sick-friendly, can seem to the sick single person like the powers of the universe are conspiring to compound the misery. This experience has prompted me to think about how I have managed this time, and how other singles and those who live alone manage when they get seriously sick or injured or need to recover from surgery.

Prepare - it's not just for the Boy Scouts

Denying that you will ever get sick or injured is not realistic. A little preparation can make the difference between feeling hopelessly miserable and managing the event and moving toward recovery.

Stock up on your routine medicines and those items you use for fevers and cold symptoms. By stocking up I mean don’t let your inventory run less than a 1-2 week supply. Also, keep on hand simple foods that can be prepared with minimal effort and clean-up like bread to make toast, clear soups, bouillon cubes, yogurts (if you regularly consume them anyway), clear soft drinks, tea (real and herbal), gelatin mix, and so forth.

Know where your insurance card is and how to get an acute care (sick visit) appointment should it become necessary. This is important for those who are rarely sick enough to see a doctor or have changed systems since their last visit.

What about your pet? If you were too sick to walk the dog everyday, who would do it for you?

Have a phone list of important numbers in a prominent place; or better yet make more than one copy. This list would have not only your medical office, insurance company, and pharmacy but also your close personal contacts like your work, family and friends.

Talk to your family and friends in advance about who would, or would not, be willing to help should a need arise and the kinds of help they might be comfortable offering. In the vast majority of cases you would want to, and be able to, manage on your own. However, knowing you could call would deflect a lot of anxiety about disturbing someone out of the blue.

Company – sometimes misery needs to call a friend

Being under the weather compounds everything especially the isolation of living alone. But those living alone often need a bit of companionship or the support that being checked on brings. So go through the call list and note those family and friends you especially enjoy hearing from and who tend to be uplifting in their conversation; and these should be individuals who would be able to demonstrate concern for your welfare.

The ultimate imposition

What if you can’t be alone during your recovery? What are your options for getting around the clock assistance if you don’t need a hospital stay but you can’t manage alone? The specific circumstances will be a big factor in determining how to match what is needed and what is available. Could you stay with family or friends full time for a few days? Or could someone spend nights with you and then you spend days with someone else?

The hard part – do it

Culturally we resist advance planning because it feels so fatalistic and morbid. Yet when there is a large-scale emergency we hear calls for emergency planning advice but how often does anyone implement the suggestions. So get over your discomfort and work on one or two of these points this week.

Afterword -

I looked around for other lists and sources of ideas for sick day planning; but while I found lots of questions and exasperation on the part of sick singles I could not find one set of clear suggestions. I will keep looking though.

1 comment:

chelle said...

egads .. sorry you were so sick.