How to Get Help as an Elder Orphan
The thought of aging alone can be terrifying. Who is going to help you make it to doctor appointments when you can’t drive? Who will be around to care for you if you end up hospitalized or need to have surgery with a lengthy recovery time?
Only 12% of women between the ages of 80-84 were childless in 2010, but in a recent report from the AARP, that number is expected to rise to 16% by 2030. Women have longer average lifespans than their male spouses, and a rising number of women are choosing not to have kids. Because of this, women are more likely to become elder orphans later in life than men are.
So, how do you get help as you age if you’re an elder orphan?
Keep reading to learn how you can plan ahead and develop a support system to get the help you need as you age.
How to Get Help as an Elder Orphan
If you have already been struggling with some of the common issues that elder orphans face, it might seem like getting help is impossible.
Most healthcare providers assume that you have family or friends to take care of you.
It’s typical for them to require you to have someone drive you home or look after you when they need to perform tests or certain routine procedures like colonoscopies.
Hospitals and doctors’ offices don’t offer any assistance with this, so you will be on your own when it comes to securing a ride and finding someone to help you while you recover.
Aging presents more challenges than just medical visits.
What about daily living? Who will take you grocery shopping or pick things up for you when you can’t do it for yourself? If you live close enough to grocery stores and your doctors, you could walk if you’re able.
Otherwise, you will need to come up with the money to take a bus, taxi, or pay for ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber. But what do you do when you can’t afford to do that all the time or those options are not available to you?
Rides aren’t the only thing you could end up needing assistance with.
What about when it becomes too difficult to perform daily duties around your home? Cooking causes spills you can’t easily clean up anymore, and laundry is getting too heavy for you to lug around the house.
Take advantage of these resources to get help with daily activities as you age.
1. Develop a Local Social Network
Having an active social network locally can help you maintain your independence.
You can increase your social circle by becoming more active in your community and developing a local buddy system.
- Start going to church.
- Participate in bingo night at the senior center.
- Join a book club.
- Sell your crafts at craft fairs.
- Volunteer for the soup kitchen.
- Participate in any other group activity that meets frequently.
All of these activities are a great way to make friends and meet others who could be living in similar situations. You can find the help that you need while also finding ways that you can help others as well.
2. Participate in Online Chat Groups
Online chat groups, like the Elder Orphan Facebook group, are excellent ways to meet others without leaving the house. You might even find some people who live locally that would be willing to pick you up and take you out to socialize or visit with you in your home.
These groups can be a great alternative for you if you have mobility challenges or if you prefer to avoid groups of people.
Disclaimer: Be careful who you invite to your home and share your address with. Vet them carefully by checking out their social profiles or performing a background check before you agree to ride with them anywhere or give them your address.
3. Establish a Buddy System
An elderly buddy system ensures that someone will check on you regularly to make sure that you’re ok.
Connecting with people locally and online is the first step in establishing a buddy system. Your buddy system can look different from someone else’s based on your needs.
Maybe you get along just fine solo, and you would only need help in an emergency. You might have a medical condition that could cause you to need help suddenly, and you would feel better knowing there was someone to check up on you.
Your buddy system could consist of a few friends that text or call you daily to make sure you are ok and could assist you with rides or help during and after a medical emergency.
4. Plan Ahead
You can anticipate your future needs and plan accordingly. This will make it easier for someone to act as a proxy without having to know you intimately. Your wishes and desires can be clearly documented and communicated so they can easily follow your instructions.
You could pick a healthcare and financial proxy, invest in long-term care policies, and/or create a living will. Each of these precautions will provide a safety net for you as you age.
The people you choose to help you do not have to be related to you. You can choose someone from your buddy system that you can trust, or you find a professional that would be willing to do it for you — like a bank to manage your finances or a caregiver to help make medical decisions.
An aging life care manager will help you come up with a plan for your future and can provide more assistance to you as your needs increase with age.
5. Be Creative with Your Living Situation
Is living alone not going to be a viable option anymore? Maybe you have gotten behind on your mortgage, or you could use assistance with activities of daily living — like cooking, cleaning, and running errands.
Some elder orphans are getting creative by seeking out roommates that are willing to assist them. You could offer room and board to a college student in exchange for running errands and helping you around the house, for example.
Others are building co-housing communities of elders that all support each other. Senior co-housing consists of 20 to 40 independent units that share a common lawn and walkways. They are typically age-restricted so that only people over a certain age — like 55+ — can purchase homes there.
6. Consult With an Aging Life Care Manager
Don’t find yourself struggling and isolated as you age. Talk to an expert who can help you prepare for the obstacles you might encounter, and will provide you with assistance when you need it.
An aging life care manager can discuss all the options with you and help you develop a plan that is best for your unique situation.
What Does an Aging Life Care Manager Do?
We can provide assistance with:
- Performing evaluations and assessments.
- Creating a care management plan.
- Referring you to resources that could help.
- Assistance managing your finances by helping you pay bills.
- And more: talk to a member of our staff to find out all the ways we can help you with your specific situation and needs.
Let us become your back-up plan and request a consultation to speak with one of our aging life care managers today.
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Life over 50 is complicated. From illnesses to general aging-related difficulties, there's a lot to learn and a lot to cope with. We understand and we're here to help answer questions and provide guidance on your options.