December 20

Aging Without Family Support: What to do When You Need Help

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Growing old is hard enough, but what do you do when you're alone and don't have any family members to help?

Life takes different turns for everyone. Even if you had a big family, there's no way to predict what the future will hold for you all. They may move away, or you may just not talk like you used to. 

When aging starts to take a toll on your body and mind, being alone starts to become worrisome. Who should your emergency contact be if something happens? What do you do if you need help with your day-to-day life and responsibilities?

Let us show you some options to provide help for everything from daily living to major medical emergencies.

Aging Without Family Support:

What to do When You Need Help

According to AARP, 1 in 5 Americans older than 65 either already are, or at risk of becoming, an elder orphan.  As the baby boomer generation gets older, more and more of them are finding themselves aging alone. Whether by choice or circumstance, 33% of people aged 65 and older, and 57% of people 85 and older, live on their own.

What Is an Elder Orphan?

An elder orphan is a senior that doesn’t have a family to take care of them as they age. They have never married or are recently divorced or widowed. They do not have kids, or their kids can’t/won’t help them.

Who Is at Risk?

Everyone is at risk of becoming an elder orphan. Anyone can find themselves without a spouse, children, or other family members to help care for them. With that being said, the people who are the highest risks of becoming elder orphans are:

  • Isolated adults.
  • Adults who are estranged from their families.
  • Adults who have never married.
  • Adults who are divorced or widowed.
  • Single adults or couples without children.
  • Single adults or couples with estranged children.
  • Women are at a higher risk than men of becoming elder orphans due to their longer average life spans.

Planning for the Future

The sooner you start planning for your future, the better. Get ahead of aging by following the preparation tips below.

Preparing the Paperwork and Picking a Proxy

Pretty much every adult has heard of a last will and testament, but according to Caring.com’s 2019 survey, 57% of U.S. adults do not currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust. Preparing the necessary paperwork and picking a healthcare proxy is essential to developing a long-term plan for your future.

Healthcare Proxy

A healthcare proxy is someone that can make decisions for you regarding your health in the event you cannot make those choices yourself — such as if you need a feeding tube or life support. Choose a person that you trust and make sure they know what your wishes are.

Living Will

If you need life support, create a living will to specify how you want to be cared for. This legal document allows you to specify if you would want to remain on life support or have them pull the plug under specific circumstances.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)

Visit your local hospital and talk to your primary care physician about a DNR. If you do not wish to be resuscitated by cardiac equipment or be placed on life support, a DNR will keep that from happening.

Final Will and Testament

A final will and testament will let the proper people know what you would like to be done with your remaining assets and estate. This legal document that would state what to do with all your belongings and if you own any property, how it will be divided. You must be of sound mind and health when your will was created for it to be valid.

Where Will You Live?

Choosing where you will live when you hit retirement age is a crucial decision and can be an expensive one. Most seniors would prefer to age at home where they are, but if you are an elder orphan, this might not make the most sense for you. 

You will have easier access to assistance as you age and your needs change if you join a retirement community. Depending on which one you choose, the expenses can add up pretty fast. If a retirement community is where you would like to be, you will need to plan ahead and save up early. 

The government offers some financial help, but it’s only under certain circumstances that you are likely not to qualify for until you become permanently disabled or unemployed.

Aging at Home

Aging at home can be just as costly in some cases. If you live in a house, you have the recurring expenses involved as a homeowner. You also would not have access to the assistance you need without paying for an in-home caregiver. 

The costs of an in-home provider could outweigh the costs of a retirement community quickly, depending on your needs. As an elder orphan, you will have some specific factors to consider if you want to remain at home.

Factors to Consider:
  • Transportation - Who will drive you to doctor’s appointments when you can’t drive yourself?
  • Help with Lawn Care - Who will mow your yard, trim your hedges, and clean your gutters when it becomes too hard for you?
  • Help with Housework - Who will wipe your counters, mop the floors, or do the laundry when you find it becoming more and more challenging to do on your own?
  • Mobility Issues - Who will help you when you can’t get in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet without fear of falling or other injuries?

Aging in a Retirement Community

A retirement community could be the perfect choice for you. As an elder orphan, you would have access to the help you need and opportunities to build a social circle. Most retirement communities provide daily activities for the residents to have fun and interact with one another. 

Specific communities will provide laundry, housekeeping, and meal prep services for an additional fee or as part of the monthly rate. They might even offer transportation services for doctor appointments and errands. 

Recommended Reading: Where Will You Live If You Cannot Take Care of Yourself

Managing Your Assets

If you were to become unable to manage your finances, you would need to choose a financial proxy or hire a professional to help. There are some things you can do to prepare for that possibility now instead of trying to figure out what to do when it happens.

Durable Power of Attorney

Designate a Durable Power of Attorney. This person will be able to make financial decisions on your behalf. It will define the scope of authority that that person has over your finances and remains active should you become incapacitated.

Trusts

One option is to place all your assets into a trust. You can designate yourself as the trustee while you are still able to manage your finances and appoint someone else as trustee in the event you become unable to manage it yourself.

Automated Payments

If you are having problems remembering to pay your bills, consider setting up automated payments for the ones that are recurring. You can do this through your bank in some cases, or you can set it up through the company you owe directly.

Authorized Signature

In some cases, you can add a person to your bank account that only has the power to sign checks for you. This can be helpful in situations where you need someone else to sign for you, but you are mentally capable of authorizing the signature and managing your finances. For example, you are blind or have mobility issues that prevent you from being able to hold or write with a pen.

Joint Accounts

You can add someone to your account that can manage it for you. Only do this with someone you trust entirely that doesn’t have financial issues or any other reason to steal money from you. You have to have 100% trust and faith in this person to manage your account and have complete access to it.

Hire a Professional

If you need help paying bills and reconciling bank statements, you can hire a CPA or financial adviser.


Create a Support Network

More than 65.5 million Americans over the age of 65 are battling depression. Isolation is a leading cause of depression. Creating a support network of friends is crucial, not only for your mental health, but as a necessity for daily living if you want to maintain your independence longer.

Join a Church

If you are religious, join a church. This is a quick way to make friends and become a part of an established community that you can lean on for support.

Find a Social Hobby

Consider starting a hobby where you can socialize with other people. Join a book club, craft circle, volunteer, or join a bowling league.

Join Facebook Groups

Join a Facebook group that suits your interests. If you aren’t sure which type of group to join, check out one specifically for elder orphans. Get to know the members and join any group in-person meetups that are scheduled.

Get to Know Your Neighbors

Your neighbor could wind up being your new best friend. If you’re not that lucky, they might still be kind enough to give you a lift to the doctor or help out with your pets when needed.

Find a Roommate

Find a roommate or roommates that benefit from cohabitating with you. This might be another elder orphan or someone that assists you with daily tasks for room and board.

Join a Support Group

Find a local support group and attend meetings. This will give you a chance to make friends and find out what others are doing when faced with the same situations and decisions you are.

Consult a Professional

Determining what choices are the right ones can be overwhelming when you are making decisions about your future. One wrong move could leave you without a place to live or in a financial bind. 

Let us help you plan for all of life’s surprises. One of our Professional Care Providers can answer your questions and assist you with these tough decisions. Request a consultation to speak to one of our Professional Care Providers today!

Request a Consultation

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.


About the author

Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

President & CEO, Aging Life Care™ Manager

“I am dedicated to working with older adults and their families to maintain dignity and enhance their quality of life.”

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