Bob was devastated when his wife died of cancer. He’d been her main caregiver, and afterward, he realized that now he had to face his old age alone. No kids, no family nearby. And living in the West, he started worrying about how inaccessible senior care could be. That’s when his gallows humor took over.
If you are getting older and find yourself suddenly alone, health care issues can be scary. And it can really be nerve-wracking if you live in a rural western state that lacks easy access to care. While providers of all sorts exist in major metropolitan areas, it’s a different story when you come to smaller towns where the small volume of patients don’t make it worthwhile for a provider to set up shop there.
People in the mountain west sometimes have to drive two hours or more to see specialists and getting to a regular doctor isn’t a guarantee either. There’s a huge lack of public transportation. And for those who can drive, winter roads can close at the drop of a hat. This is hard on everyone, but especially single elderly people who struggle with physical limitations. The other part of this is that while nursing homes exist, assisted living options and home health options vary and those figure to get scarce as more people live longer.
In November of 2016, my wife of 32 years was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. After four pain-filled months, she died in a Laramie hospital room with my hand on her heart. It was the worst day of my life.
For the previous four months I was the prime caregiver, as I had been for two hip and two knee reconstruction surgeries. Before she died she thanked me for taking care of her and apologized for abandoning me. And then she was gone. And for the first time since I was 23 years old, I lived alone.
Now I’m 58. I have no kids and no family members nearby. And at some point, it occurred to me that if something similar happened to me…I had nobody who could take care of me.
So I took a journey to see what people in Wyoming are doing about all of this and what solutions exist.
Blue Dot Sessions