In 2003, I had a premonition of sorts. I started thinking, "What if something happens to Jim? Would I be able to function on my own? Would I know who to call? Would I know how to handle the business side of our lives--bills, repairs, general maintenance?" And so on. I panicked. I voiced my concerns to Jim, who usually took care of pretty much everything. I started insisting that he give me a crash course in, well, everything he did for us. He thought I was overreacting and didn't take it too seriously. He explained a few things, but I was still pretty much in the dark.
Then in December of that year, he fell. He fell when the old ladder he was standing on to remove snow from our porch roof broke in two. He landed on the shoveled concrete walkway in front of our house, with three feet of fresh snow on each side of him.
I was about to be put to the test.
As soon as I saw Jim lying on the walkway, unresponsive, I kicked into emergency mode. It was automatic. It was instantaneous. This is one thing I can tell those of you who think you are wimps and clueless about how to handle emergencies: I said the same exact thing, and yet I did exactly what I needed to do at the time. You will do what you need to do too. Your instincts will kick in. I just hope you never have to experience such razor-sharp instincts. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
Besides keeping up with my medical care, the household stuff, bills, and Jim's condition, I had to manage a move. We had just sold our house and the closing was scheduled for December 31, less than two weeks away. I had to get help to remove the rest of our things from the house. I had to get a power of attorney so I could sign for Jim at the closing. We should have backed out of the sale, but we didn't. Luckily, we had amazing friends and my family who helped get everything done on time, plus provided me with constant support, including transportation to and from the hospital.
Although the neurosurgeon in charge of Jim's care told me afterward he had had his doubts that he's be able to save him, save him he did. Jim has partial hearing loss, short-term memory loss, and has had bouts with blood clots, but considering the shape he was in when he fell, he's doing quite well.
Things to Consider
These are things I wish we had considered well before Jim's fall. Take a look:
- Sit down with your parent or spouse--or another primary person you currently live with--and discuss what to do in case of emergency or death of that person.
- Make a list of important phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses, and other important contact information.
- Make a list of account numbers: banks, credit cards, and so on.
- Do your own banking and handle your own money.
- Add your name to every account, loan--everything--if possible. I couldn't get information about our car loan because it wasn't in my name at the time of Jim's fall.
- Surround yourself with people you can count on to help with ANYthing you need. These people will stay up all night with you while you talk about the same things over and over and cry your eyes out. These people will drop everything to help you. These people will have a place where you can stay, at least temporarily, should you be unable or unwilling to stay alone. No excuses, no questions, no B.S., they are there--period. Find those people and stick with them.
- Get used to asking others for help when you need it.
- Get used to getting around on your own, whether by car, bus, train, plane, your own two feet, via your chair--whatever--get really good at it.
- Get used to shopping, prepping your own meals, and cleaning your own living space.
- Get used to basic maintenance of your car, chair, house--anything that needs to be done. Or make a list of reliable repair services you can count on to do it for you.
- Keep up with your health maintenance. You need to be strong and healthy in times of emergency. The healthier you are on an on-going basis, the better off you'll be during and after the emergency.
Have you ever experienced a similar situation when you had to take charge and you weren't quite sure you could handle it? How did you do? And, do you live on your own? I'd love to hear from you.