Is Someone You Love Without a Support System?

Elder orphans, a term used to describe seniors who don’t have children or a family support system, are growing in number. To protect themselves, they need to plan more than other seniors.

With a health care system already straining at the seams from aging baby boomers, a new concern is rising: the care of elder orphans, single adults with no family to care for them as they age.

The chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore LIJ Health System found that about 25% of Americans age 65 or older are in danger of becoming “elder orphans.” That number may be increasing, as U.S. Census data says that one-third of Americans 45 to 63 are single—an increase of 50% since 1980.

The Enid (OK) News’ article, “Many seniors age without support system,” identified some questions to help physicians and other health care professionals screen patients and help identify those who are at the greatest risk of becoming an “elder orphan.” Identifying individuals most at risk allows health care providers to more effectively meet their needs and help to avoid health crises before they happen.

Planning for the future is critical for those aging alone and without a family support network. They need to consider their current living arrangements and compare it to future expectations. It is important to examine the services and amenities available in the community,  such as mobile meals, public transportation and home healthcare.

You should also get your legal documents in order, like determining who’ll be your healthcare proxy, if you are unable to make decisions about your own health. If you don’t have someone in your personal life who can take on that responsibility, look at elder care options so that you can identify someone to speak on your behalf if you’re unable to speak for yourself.

You should talk to an attorney who specializes in Elder Law to help you.

Single men and women without families have to be more pro-active about advocating for their needs, and that includes planning for the challenges of aging well in advance. It is not fun to consider the decisions that will need to be made about geriatric care or end-of-life issues on your own, but planning in advance will, at the very least, provide some peace of mind.

By taking action now, elder orphans can put a plan into place that will allow them to age with dignity and retain independence for as long as possible.

Reference: The Enid (OK) News (March 19, 2017) “Many seniors age without support system.”