Do you have a support network? The subject came up in discussion again yesterday. The Senior Cat and I discuss it often. Does someone we know who needs help have a support network? Yesterday I also contributed to an on-line discussion about something else and raised the matter there as one part of the solution to the problems being discussed. I then discussed it further with a friend at my knitting guild. She was once a Senator for this state, Minister for Health and was - and still is - interested in such things.
What do I mean by a "support network"? Put simply I mean your family and your friends - the people who will help you when you are in need of help.
Some time ago I was talking to someone I know about what might happen if I had to leave the Senior Cat alone for a number of days.
"Don't ever worry about that," she told me, "We'd see to it that he was fed."
And I know they would. I also know that someone would sleep here overnight. The Senior Cat is still able to look after himself but, at 91, he should not be left alone overnight when he is somewhat unsteady on his feet. Even his personal alarm does not cover all contingencies. So, yes he needs someone to be around but not hovering over him.
He has a support network and, by extension, I have a support network. We are lucky.
Some people would say we have worked at it. They would say we have done things for other people and, because of that, they also do things for us. Perhaps. It may not always work like that but perhaps it has in our case. We certainly didn't help other people with that idea in mind!
But the friend who is currently causing me so much concern has no such support network. She has one close relative, her unmarried sister. Her sister is not able to take responsibility for anything other than herself - and even that is difficult. It's just the way she is. Her own medical issues get in the way.
My friend has her late cousin's wife, a still energetic woman of 80. I have known this woman for many years on a casual basis and I like her very much - but she has other responsibilities. When we were talking on the phone several days ago she mentioned that she had managed to get to a meeting of her semi-professional craft group and that it had been "good to see some friends there and chat" as well as get some work done.
My friend has nothing like that. Her pursuits have been almost entirely intellectual. Her hobbies were things like reading and doing another subject at university, going to the theatre, a film or a concert. She knew people of course and occasionally went out with them but she didn't really develop a network of friendships of the "help each other" sort of kind. It was only a little over a year ago that she bought her first television set - and it has not been used much. Now she doesn't even do much reading. I suspect that large print might help but, so far, she has not pursued it with me and I am not prepared to push anything that makes her feel her life is spiralling further out of control.
There was a crisis on Friday - just as the solicitor we have obtained for her called in. The solicitor was someone she had not met or spoken to before - a very pleasant and competent sounding young woman with whom I had spoken on the phone. They were supposed to be sorting out some paperwork to give me the proper legal standing to take on her affairs. Instead the solicitor sat with her for almost half an hour and calmed her down enough to get her to agree to go for another scan. She obtained further pain medication for my friend - apparently by being quite forceful. And she phoned me to let me know exactly what had happened before I went to see her in the afternoon.
I have no doubt there will be a hefty bill for these services but she could also just have walked away and left my friend there - alone. I know my friend is not behaving normally. She is becoming much more dependent and unable to make decisions. Pain does that. Anxiety does that. Being in hospital, especially for an extended period does that. Not having other distractions does it too. It could have been very different if my friend had a wider support network. I hope I am learning from this - learning to maintain my own network and to support those who support me.