When I started this blog, I wrote about a neighbor in my building. K was sort of my hero: after she retired from a fulfilling career, she embarked on filling out her bucket list. She did some stand up comedy, wrote a book, raised money for organizations that were important to her, vowed to never leave the city that energized her. And I told you that she was beginning to forget things, how her family got her a home aide worker to assist her.

Over a year later, I see that her quality of life decreased.  A few weeks ago my daughter entered the apartment saying- “Do you know there are police in the lobby?” Turns out that K had called the police on her aide worker- she claimed that someone had broken into her apartment. She didn’t recognize the woman that had been with her all this time.

Another retired neighbor had a fall last year. The fall itself wasn’t too bad as far as falls go- she went to the Doctor and apart from some bruises she was fine. Except that fall seemed to break her in other ways. This once robust, vital woman seemed to shrivel as time went by.  Last month she fell again, this time in her apartment. Her friend had tried repeatedly to reach her by phone, and when she didn’t hear back, the friend called the doorman, who went into the apartment. S had been on the floor for twelve hours, unable to move or get to her phone. She was taken to the hospital where they discovered she has pneumonia.  After a stay there, she was moved to a facility where she can recuperate. They have no idea when she will be well enough to return home. She was in the process of selling her apartment and buying a new place in Florida. Those dreams are on hold now, and perhaps forever.

I remember a time in the not so distant past when I made fun of those devices that you wear- the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” things. Now I’m considering buying them in bulk for everyone I know.

I worry that my Father will fall and my Mother will try to help him and she will fall as well.  The other day I called my neighbor who is in her seventies. As she normally responds back to me within a few hours, I got nervous when Friday turned into Saturday and I hadn’t heard from her. I actually asked the doorman if he had seen her. (it turns out she went to Jersey to spend the day with her niece and she refuses to keep her cell phone on….)

But you get the idea…

As we get older, our bodies and minds will change. Like it or not, someone will need to keep an eye out on us. As independent people, this is going to be a hard change. I don’t like the idea of someone needing to check in on me. But I fear it’s inevitable. The women who fell in our building- this wasn’t the first time this happened to one of my neighbors. And I know it will not be the last time either.

As much as it pains me to think that I might need to rely on someone else, I can’t help but worry- what if there is no one around? And I don’t just mean for me.  My next door neighbor is completely anti social (we jokingly call her witness protection) I’ve lived next door to her for nineteen years- she has never had anyone come to visit her. She works from home and doesn’t go out much. Would anyone know if she fell? If she was hurt?

I accept the wisdom that comes with age. I accept the wrinkles and the grey hair. And I must accept that there are things that even I can’t control, things that no list or organizational tool can stop. Our bodies and minds will not be as supple as they are now. No matter what we do, time marches on, and begins to march over us.

58 thoughts on “It Could Happen to You

  1. Yes, it could happen to anyone. Thing is, it could happen at any age too. I began having symptoms of chronic illness at the age 44 (ten years ago) after a stroke. For the first several years it was manageable; however, just before I turned 53 my health began to worsen. More often than not I am in pain, I experience such debilitating fatigue that I can do nothing, the headaches I endure due to brain damage, epilepsy and myalgic encephalomyelitis are excruciating and cause my cognitive abilities to come into question. I will repeat the same sentence, ask the same question a few times within five minutes and memory fails me. I no longer drive. I am shut in. Many times confined to bed. Here is my problem, because my main diagnosis is a mysterious one, meaning they know of it but they know very little about it (most doctors are extremely ignorant on the subject), my illness is not taken seriously and I can get no help. Because I am 5-10 years shy of being a senior citizen I cannot get help. I live alone and spend 90% of my time alone. I spent the last few days with a high fever which made it difficult to walk and I was stumbling around. Other than my ex-husband stopping by for a few minutes with ibuprofen and a subway, I had to deal it with it by myself. My only surviving son and his wife live in Denver (I am in Ohio). I am moving there but I am having difficulty doing to it because there is no one to help me. When I get there my son and daughter-in-law will have to work and I will be living a half an hour away. It will be the same there as it is here.

    I am sorry, I read this on a very bad day. I am overwhelmed this morning with being ill and trying to move all on my own. The loneliness is unbearable. Worse, yet, I am only 54 years old. I never thought that was old but it sure as hell feels like it.

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    1. Sending you love and thoughts. I hope that you are soon able to move so your family is at hand to help in whatever way possible. Health is something we all take for granted, nd we really shouldn’t. Thank you for sharing your story! Much love to you!

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  2. I’m glad my mother made arrangements for her long-term care to the end of life, especially since she now has severe dementia. I had to take over her financial matters some years ago. But I don’t have children. I, of course, just say “it won’t happen to me!” Probably not the most productive delusion.

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  3. Two years post divorce, turning 60 in September, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot…wondering and waiting and contemplating how life may turn as time marches on. I am already putting out little hints to the adult children-just some nudges to let them know that I like and want independence, but help may very well be needed as the years progress. What else can we do? Not to anticipate these changes makes no sense. I think talking and planning now helps to make whatever transitions that may arise a bit more acceptable to contemplate and deal with.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We need to prepare, but it’s hard to face that we might not be the same independent spirits we’ve always maintained. I certainly don’t want to think about it….but I must……

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  4. Very sobering to observe these changes in people we know/love, and wonder what it will be like when we arrive at that stage in our lives, if we are fortunate enough to reach our older years. Your thoughtful post make me think of these two things: 1) Our need to be alert and check on older adults around us; and 2) My hope that, if I am lucky enough to grow old, I recognize when I need help and accept it. Right now I know people who will not consider a walker, a life alert system, absorbent underwear (as adult diapers are so delicately called now), a home health aide to assist with bathing, or hearing aids. They range in age from 60s to 90s, all highly intelligent. The stubbornness is extremely frustrating to witness and deal with. And while I like to think I wouldn’t be this way, who knows? These people were not always unreasonable, either.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You hit on the exact thoughts I have! I need to make a conscious effort to check on my neighbors who live alone. We need to watch out for one another! And yes….people don’t want to rely on things made for “older” people, but we sometimes need to accept the reality. Hearing aides! Do you know how many people I know refuse to get them even though it’s clear they have trouble hearing! You are exactly right on this. We may not like it, but we have to try to accept it.

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  5. An important post. This is a real issue that faces us all sooner or later. My friends and I try to check on one another but it’s very scary when you live alone and become ill. I have learned to always take my cell into the bathroom when I shower.. just Incase. To quote Betty Davis, “ Getting older isn’t for sissies.”

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Exactly.There is a difference in vulnerability and weakness. Single women over 60 are vulnerable whether we like it or not. We’ve been the caregivers and the strong ones our entire lives. Now we need to rely on friends to check in. My sons do several times a week, but they both have demanding jobs, one lives out of state, and the other has 3 kids and works tirelessly. He usually calls in the car on his way home from work. Both boys, I mean men, are dependable, loving sons, but quite honestly I only call in an emergency.
        I was in a car accident a few years back. I Called my local son and he dropped everything and showed up at the same time as the ambulance and stayed with me in the hospital. So I’m very fortunate. That accident was an eye opener. I was stuck in a wheelchair for several months and then used a walker for a couple months. ( I am fine now). But it made me very aware how in an instant, our lives can change. Fortunately, my mind was in tact and while convalescing I wrote an educational curriculum, several chapters of a novel, and quite a few blogs to keep from going stir crazy. But, I became aware of my vulnerability. I was 64 at the time and ironically had just come from working out when the accident happened. So life is rather crazy. My BFF who helped me through it passed away last Year from cancer and I was there for her in her time of need. She was two years younger than I. My second husband died from cancer at 55.
        So… If we are very lucky, we get to live a long life. And as women, we must check on, and help encourage and lift up our gal pals. It’s part of the girl code of friendship.

        Thanks so much for addressing this LA. I had planned to touch upon this in April when I reach my next decade. I’m terrified of 70. It sounds so old to this former hippie rocker chick. But, I’m ready to face the music. And my rhythm ladies, will have a loud rock beat! Power to us all! ✌️❤️

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      2. What you wrote is indeed eye opening. We don’t think we’ll ever need assistance, but in the blink of an eye it changes. Be thankful for the friends that are there to help

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  6. My sisters and I have started calling our 94 year old mom on a daily basis. She’s had some health issues lately and while I am the closest one in physical distance and take her to her doctor’s appointments, etc., it is nice having the knowledge that one of us is talking to her every day. Funnily enough, my mom doesn’t really feel she needs the attention but I told her it was for OUR peace of mind and then she accepted it.

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  7. How wonderful that K did so many things from her bucket list! I, too, have thoughts such as those that you and your commenters express. On one hand, one hopes just to live that long, but on the other, doesn’t want to go out poorly. I’m not one of those people who is always looking at my phone, but I agree that having one with you can be a very good backup if help is needed!

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    1. Honestly I tell my daughter to take her phone into the bathroom when she’s showering. Anyone can fall! And she is an inspiration, though it’s sad now, but thrilled she got to live out her dreams!

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  8. You can’t stop time. If as you get older, the biggest ache you have is colds for a long time, you are one of the lucky ones. I see that with my husband’s cancer and other problems. He led a rough life in his military days. As for me, I am healthy, with just high cholesterol. Will I outlive those I love? I hope not but life is precarious. Having children doesn’t guarantee they will be there for you in the end. We enter alone and we die alone and what we do to help those around us gets us through.

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      1. Yes, I know. My husband keeps telling me that my stepson will be there for me and I am like, “yeah, yeah…I expect to be alone one day, but we hope for the best with everything. And I could always go first. Gruesome thoughts this morning. Stay well.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Getting older is hard. Mom thinks she can do her own taxes and I am going to have to strongly suggest we get outside help this year. She wrote a very large check to the IRS last year and it bounced. Apparently they cash the check first before making sure the information on the tax return is corrects. I love my mom, but I think my head will explode if she doesn’t allow a financial professional to help us, and she and I do the taxes together.

    My mom has the Life Alert system. She won’t wear the necklace consistently so I have had police welfare checks done for her, or else the poor dog walker has to call me to tell me my mom has fallen. Not only that my mom is not always completely dressed and is incontinent at the time of her falls. So sad.

    Now she is getting extra help which she pays for, but doesn’t really understand why she needs it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kate, I don’t know how old your mom is, but I do suggest she use a tax person. I use a tax attorney. He takes care of everything and sets it up where I pay quarterly to the irs so I don’t have to pay at the end of the year. The IRS actually penalizes seniors by adding an additional cost if they don’t make quarterly payments. If you are retired they want a guarantee that they get their taxes and they want to see it ahead of time. Plus, part of what I pay my tax guy is that he handles any mistakes made by the government etc. example, after my husband died they mixed up my social security number with his and fined me. I called my tax guy and he straightened it out for free because in the cost of his yearly fee he adds an extra $50. For things like that. The government often makes mistakes. Also having a professional doing my taxes he knows all the benefits I am entitled to. I just give him all my paperwork, medication, deductions etc. and he files everything for me. What I pay him is far less than I bet what your mom is currently paying the irs.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. That’s part of the issue…in our minds we are strong, unfortunately the reality is often different. Tell her with the new tax code you need to get help, all kinds of new rules that require professionals

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My mom is in her seventies. She used to be impeccable about all things financial but she isn’t now. She always used to do her own taxes. I did my own taxes when I was single and things were less complicated but not now. I know very little about tax laws so a professional like a tax attorney sounds like a very good idea. Thanks for the suggestion Lesley.

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  11. I have finally learned to accept what I do know and what I don’t know… or excell in. Lol I turn 70 this year, which is freaking me out! And I see the differences in little things as I “mature”. I’m still a power house, but I am not a tax attorney and with all the changes this administration has made for seniors, it only makes sense to hire an expert. My younger son even uses my tax guy. He’s a director in the film industry and just sends him a pdf of all his projects and lets an expert in the field handle it. Before I was retired things were pretty straightforward. Now it’s very different. So, I find it’s one less thing I have to stress over. Plus last year I got pneumonia and was really ill around tax time. So my tax guy had me file an extension and he did it a when I was better. It’s so much easier.

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  12. I do believe that if you are open to people and to change that growth happens at all ages. I watched my father outlive my mother and become a gourmet cook, a dj, and make new friends until the day, two years later, he passed away. When my mom died, his partner of 50 plus years, he told my brothers and I in the hospital, “Well, that is it.” And it wasn’t. It was tough but we all helped a little but he made it through. He lived in Nevada and finally passed away in Florida and he was very different when he passed away. In the last years of his life without my mother, he had to develop new skills so there is hope for all of us!

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  13. Only if we let it. Getting old sucks. No doubt about it. We have to make it good. I worry about my mom too. Or even myself. With my husband being gone week you never know. Maybe you could put me on your life alert list!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Most people think their life is over at 90. After my mother gave up her license at age 87 she was home more so she took up painting (she had painted a bit before, including some lessons at age 50). At age 90 I entered her into a contest (just on a whim as I saw a small article in the paper), at a regional art gallery and she won. Nobody ever gets into this gallery unless they are famous or dead, so it was quite an honour. Since then she has had 4 other exhibits. I’m happy she is having this late in life career….but more importantly she just enjoys the painting. But I have to admit my mother, now almost 93 is in good health and still lives in her own home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She’s very fortunate. At some point age just catches up unfortunately. And yo7 need to prep. We should all be lucky enough to be tha5 healthy in our 90s

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  15. I am of your witness protection neighbor ilk. No family nearby either. And I have 2 dogs who fiercely guard me (I did not train them, they just do this). So if I were not seen out-and-about, not only would some well-meaning neighbor wonder, anyone would have a very hard time getting past my dogs.

    Quandary.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Someone in our family recently died, leaving their very old mother. She was forgetful before but now even more so. It’s so hard to navigate this. My mom is also almost 90 and living independently. One thing I know is that I don’t take my health for granted. Thank you. So sorry for your friend. LIfe feels cruel sometimes.

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