Many Americans are opting to stay single and without children. This is creating new challenges for a health care system that is already stretched to its limit by an aging baby boomer population.
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 a 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 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.
Since individuals and communities continue to look for solutions to this issue, it’s increasingly important for people to be effective self-advocates. Those without family to help care for them during their senior years should act to address the issues that may be coming in the future.
Plan for the future and take action to see that resources are in place to allow you to age with independence and dignity.
Reference: The Enid (OK) News (March 19, 2017) “Many seniors age without support system”