Saturday, November 26, 2022

Why You Still Need A `Flu Buddy'


More than 32 million Americans live alone (see chart below), and while many of those are younger people who are waiting later to get married, a side effect of our longer lifespan and high divorce rate is that many of these single households are held by those over the age of 65.

Whether we live alone by choice or by happenstance, we all share a common vulnerability. If we get sick, or injured, there may be no one around to notice, or to help.

As a paramedic I saw a significant number of people who lived alone who either died, or spent miserable hours or even days incapacitated and unable to call for help, due to an illness or accident.

In addition to those living alone, there are millions of others who may be the only responsible adult in a household; single parents with small children, or the spouse, child, or companion of an adult who requires caretaking.  

One of the key messages of this blog over the past 17+ years has been the importance of having, and being, a `Flu' or `Disaster' Buddy; to prearrange with family, friends, or neighbors a mutual assistance agreement, where you would be there for them, and they for you, during an emergency. 

A few past blogs include:

Time To Line Up A `Flu Buddy'

In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back?

Even if you believe the pandemic threat to be largely over, we are in the midst of an early, and robust `flu season' (see CDC FluView Week 45: 30 States Reporting High or Very High ILI Activity)  which may worsen following the Thanksgiving holidays.

While we don't know how often it happens, some studies have suggested that COVID coinfections (with Influenza, RSV, Adenovirus, etc.) - may produce significantly higher mortality (see The Lancet: SARS-CoV-2 Co-infection With Influenza Viruses, RSV, or Adenoviruses) than from flu or COVID alone. 

My `flu buddy' and I have discussed the logistics of how we'll deal with this winter's epidemic. We'll stay in daily contact with one another by phone, if either of us run a fever, or develop other symptoms, we'll up that to a call twice a day.

Although we are both fully vaccinated against flu and COVID (including boosters), we won't unnecessarily expose each other to the virus. If either one of us were to become sick enough to require physical assistance - we'll do whatever is needed - but we'll use N95s and hand sanitizer for personal protection, and be as careful as we can.

The time to have this type of conversation with friends, relatives, and neighbors is now. If you don't feel comfortable actually caring for someone who is sick, you can at least promise to check on them daily, leave `care packages' at their front door, or even call an ambulance for them if necessary.

By `flu buddy' and I are also `disaster buddies', and over the past 5 years I've been forced to evacuate twice due to Hurricanes.  Both times my disaster/flu buddy took me (and my cat) in with no questions asked. 

It is a reciprocal arrangement, and over the years I've helped my buddy move, and rendered other assistance. 

While some people invest in a stockpile of freeze dried food, or buy the latest survival gadgets, and think themselves prepared . . . I can assure you that having people you can really depend on in an emergency is the greatest prep of all.