As you reach your senior years, you may be watching others around you enjoying the companionship of spouses, children and grandchildren. If you have no immediate family, you are among 25 percent of U.S. seniors whom a university study termed “elder orphans.” This means you are single or widowed with no children. Whether this was a personal choice or out of your control, the fact remains that, as you age, you have no family to care for you if you should become ill.
Make the most of your good health
As you grow older, one of the most important people in your life will be the person you have chosen to make vital decisions for you if you should become incapacitated or seriously ill. If you do not have immediate family members to step in, you likely don’t want the courts to make those sensitive decisions for you. Designating a health care proxy and having a frank discussion with that person will settle many questions before urgent circumstances arise. Senior advocates recommend other ways to prepare for the future:
- Stay healthy and active as long as you can.
- Plan to have enough money to pay for services family members might otherwise provide, such as grocery shopping, housework or transportation.
- Have your estate plan completed.
- Keep your essential documents in order and accessible.
- Build a network of strong, trusted friendships.
Some elder care advocates suggest that elder orphans consider combining their resources and forming a community of their own where they can look out for one another.
Staying ahead of emergencies
If you have no family to count on as you get older, planning for your future may not be something you can put off. Leaving crucial decisions about your finances and health care for strangers to decide is probably not how you want to spend your last years. Most people would rather have a trusted friend, someone who understands their wishes, to carry those important responsibilities.
The courts will not always choose the person you would prefer to speak for you. If you have no living family members, or you and your only relatives are estranged, you will certainly wish to protect your personal preferences. An estate planning attorney will be able to help you determine the best options for your situation. Having those critical decisions made will bring you the peace of mind of knowing that you are in good hands as you enter this phase in life.