By Dr. Gerard Muraida
Bill Withers’ 1972 hit song “Lean on Me” had a poignant message. He sang about helping others in their time of need not only as a selfless act of charity but also as an appeal to our own self-interests. Withers wrote the song in the form of a direct appeal to a friend: “Call on me when you need a hand, for it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”
In this day of high-tech gadgetry, we often depend upon wireless monitoring and video capability, as opposed to other human beings, to keep us safe. When I was young, I regularly heard my mother call my grandmother on the phone to not only share the latest family news but also to check on her food supply, medication, and upcoming doctor appointments. Little did I know how valuable this communication would be until my grandmother didn’t answer her phone. She had fallen and suffered a brain hemorrhage shortly after my mother had dropped off a meal. We discovered her on her living room floor, and emergency medical technicians whisked her off to the emergency room. My grandmother didn’t survive that hospitalization, but she certainly leaned on my mother and her other children when she needed to.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe in the value of a 24/7 monitoring system. Even so, it’s smart to designate someone near where you live as a “check-in buddy” to be sure on a routine basis that each of you are safe. This can also help to ensure each of you are in compliance with medications and that you both eat, socialize, and exercise regularly. Such buddies are also beneficial to mental well-being, as studies have shown that people who are not lonely live longer and healthier.
If you have family, ask their help first. If not, locate a trusted neighbor who may want to become your “check-in buddy.” Take time to get to know your support system. Know the signs that something may be wrong with your buddy. An accumulation of mail or a newspaper left in the driveway for days may be the harbinger of a crisis. Missing a predetermined meeting time or not answering a call or a text may also be a sign of trouble.
If something seems wrong, it often is. Call 911 for help, and be ready to give basic information such as the address, next of kin, and a list of medications and/or medical conditions. Be sure to have all this information in a convenient place, such as attached to the side of your refrigerator.
Remember that even with technology, it’s not only OK to lean on others for support, but it also could potentially save a life.