I live alone, and I’m pretty healthy. But emergency situations can happen to anyone, at any age — as I’m sadly reminded whenever I read about yet another tragic bike or car accident, or hear about someone who had a heart attack or a ruptured aneurysm at an early age. And it dawned on me that if something happened to me, no one might know (who could do anything about it, at any rate) for days.
I wear a watch with medical alert information on the back, including my allergies and an emergency contact number. But what if something happened where I wasn’t found — if something happened while I was home, for example?
People I was supposed to meet with would notice something awry, and might call, email or text. But would they do anything more? Probably not. The mailman might notice my mail piling up in my mailbox, but he’d be unlikely to do anything because of that.
And when I thought about all of this, I thought about my cats. They don’t have food just sitting out, because one of them is a pig and would eat all the food for both, and eat it much too quickly. So I just put out a measured amount of food at feeding times.
If something happened to me, the cats wouldn’t get fed. Thinking of them going hungry fills me with dread; also, cats can develop medical problems pretty quickly if they go without food. And of course there are other things they’d need, too: fresh water and a clean litter box.
So now I call my neighbors every evening, just to say I’m fine. They know if they don’t get that call to come check on me — and take care of the cats.
In looking around the Web, I see there are numerous programs for daily check-in calls, generally targeted at the elderly who live alone. Some are provided for free by charities, local governments or police departments, and others are provided by businesses that charge a small fee. Some of these programs use automated calls, and others make live calls. All will call a defined list of people (friends and/or family members) or follow an agreed-upon emergency procedure — again, the specifics vary — if no one answers after something like 2-4 calls.
I feel very fortunate to have neighbors who know me (and my cats) and can serve as my check-in service. We trade all sorts of favors, so this is just one more way we’ve helped each other out over the years.
But if I didn’t have neighbors like this, I’d try to find a check-in program that worked for my situation. I hope I never hit the day when my neighbors need to do something, because I don’t call — but knowing that they are ready to do so brings me peace of mind and reduces any stressful thoughts that might be cluttering up my mind.