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Safe at Home

Nyle Kardatzke

WSN: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

My wife’s presence in our home gave me companionship but also safety. Now that she’s gone, I have to think more about my safety.

“Safety in numbers” is a common adage that does not apply to you as it once did. Your wife was a safety net for you. She probably warned if you drove too fast or did not notice the traffic slowing ahead of you. Around the house, she may have been concerned about dangers that you dismissed casually, like climbing ladders or fixing electrical circuits. Even if you are younger, maybe under 70, hazards that were present while your wife was there are now more serious.

You are more vulnerable to home hazards right now than ever: you are in a state of grief, you are living alone for the first time in years, and you are older than you once were.

Parents and grandparents take care to “baby-proof” their homes for infants and small kids. They look out for choking hazards, cleaning chemicals, and open electrical outlets. Older people, too, can turn ordinary things into hazards: leaving stove burners on, climbing on chairs to change light bulbs, tripping on staircases or rugs, overloading electrical circuits, losing track of medicines taken, and forgetting to lock the house.

You may need to “widow-man proof” or “elder-proof” your home. Think about medicines, sharp objects, stairs, fire, floods, windstorms, blizzards, rodents, electrical failures, and burglars. Many things can go wrong at home.

Five months before my wife died, she abruptly had a home security system installed. We knew of no active threat to our home, but she felt better with an alarm system armed at night. After she died, I found the alarm system reassuring, and I set it every night for several months. The alarm was something my wife did to take care of me after she was gone.

A widow friend fell in her unheated garage a few years ago during cold weather. She might have died of hypothermia if she had not made a practice of keeping her cell phone with her at all times, even at home. She called for help and was rescued in a matter of minutes. When I go to my basement, I always have my cell phone with me, just in case.

Some of the best security measures are ancient and time-honored: family, neighbors, and friends. Keep in touch with your kids, friends, and neighbors. Let them know your habits well enough to ask questions if something changes. A widowed cousin of mine fell in her kitchen and lay helpless for twenty-six hours, unable to reach her home phone or cell phone. A neighbor “happened” to come to water her plants in the yard, thinking she was out of town, and that neighbor saved her life.

Think of your “lifeline” people who may save you from misery or death by their regular communications with you. Consider a Lifeline or Life Alert button to call for help in an emergency. Think about your surroundings, and then let yourself be at peace.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, WIDOW-MAN, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

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