Carl often told me he would shoot himself before ever going to a nursing home. If that didn’t work, I was to be his back-up plan and shoot him.
Carl was my neighbor. His house was next door to mine. He lived alone ever since his wife Nancy died two years ago. He had no children. After her death he became a recluse. His friends had died or moved away. He did not drive and only left the house to go to the grocery store five blocks away. Carl prided himself on being independent and refused to ask for help from anyone. For doctor appointments, he would take a cab. At age eighty-one he fit the mold of a “grumpy old man”. I had known him for four years, and now I was the only one to help. If I called him every day to see how he was, he would not answer the phone. If I stopped by after work, it would just make him mad. So, I settled for Saturday visits.
On those Saturday afternoons, we would share a beer and chew the fat about the old days. His only other regular visitor was Connie, the cleaning lady, who came on Thursdays.
One day, Connie called me at my office to tell me Carl was on his way to the hospital. When she had unlocked the front door that morning, she found him unconscious on the floor. She called 9-1-1. The ambulance, she said, had just left.
Carl was in the intensive care unit at the hospital for over a month. I learned he had been on the floor for three days before Connie found him. I regretted profoundly that I had not called him more frequently despite his wishes. I visited him in the hospital every day. He was transferred to a rehabilitative care facility to help him regain his strength. That lasted three weeks. Carl refused to participate in the activities to regain his strength, so in his weakened state he was confined to a wheelchair. The last stop for Carl was a nursing home. Carl loved to read. I brought him westerns and visited weekly. Each visit Carl asked that I take him home. He hated it there. He just wanted to go home and resume his old routine and live alone. It never happened. Carl died six months to the day after his fall.
- Stay connected with older loved ones through regular phone calls, visits, and emails.
- Get to know your neighbors and check on them when you see something that does not look right. This is especially important when you know they live alone.
- Create a “safety net” for a senior who lives alone. One simple step is a daily call, email, or text between the senior and the friend. If the contact is missed, the friend can follow up with a visit or enlist a neighbor of the senior to find out why.
Certified Care Managers National Directory: Aging Life Care Association (www.aginglifecare.org)
Susan M. Graham just published a book entitled “Can Lawyers Always Save the Day for Seniors? – True Retirement Stories”. She wrote this to share stories of common problems for elders that can be avoided or minimized if they just took time to plan and seek help.
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“Beyond Retirement” Learning Series. Free short virtual episodes. Episode 19 – “3 Must-Have SAFETY NETS for Those with MEMORY ISSUES” will be available on Wednesday, February 16 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Saturday, February 19 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
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