I first thought about care partners 20 some years ago when my oldest son invited me to spend a few hours with his team heading to Zimbabwe for development aid work. “Talk to us about health, Pop. What do we need to know?” I remember telling them “keep it zipped up” and “buddy up with a health partner. The health partner commits to sticking with you if you get sick, come hell or high water. Let’s buddy up now” Six months later, my wife and I received a letter (before email) from Zimbabwe after we hadn’t heard from our son in 2 months. She wrote, “I am your son’s health partner. He’s OK. He got malaria and just got out of the hospital. I wanted to let you know”
Today, as I advocate for care partners, I wonder, “What if my son hadn’t had a health partner?” What happens to all these people who don’t have care partners? They are alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 – For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him up.
This week, Keren Landin, a scientist at Tuft’s, opened my eyes to social networks. Read this book, Connected, by her mentor or watch this YouTube TED Talk. The good news: almost everyone is connected to someone. Key words: almost and someone. To me that means there are still those with no one and sometimes someone doesn’t include a caregiver or care partner.
Why are people alone with no one to help? They could be shy or awkward, have difficulty making friends. They could be introverted and prefer aloneness. Maybe tragedy struck and they’re all gone. Maybe they’re disabled. Maybe they just moved and haven’t had a chance to develop networks. And many other reasons I’m sure.
This is my worst nightmare: sick, disabled, scared, alone. A person without the caregiver or care partner they need ends up at home or homeless with toenails unclipped, teeth unbrushed, unwashed, hungry, falling, frightened, at risk for worsening until found and taken to the emergency room or hospital. Then what? An angel appears: that just-in-time unexpected gift? Or the societal safety net kicks in: Community health agencies, Medicaid, Obamacare ….
Everyone deserve a health partner. You never know.