Not that long ago, words like “retirement” and “caregivers” weren’t part of our vocabulary. People worked until they could no longer physically do so and then died shortly after. Generations of families lived together, so Grandma took care of the grandkids while parents worked (no exorbitant day care costs!). When Grandma got sick, the kids and grandkids took care of her. It’s just what everyone did.
Fast forward 100 years and old age looks much different. People stop working (if they have the finances to do so) just to have fun. They live just having fun for 20-30 years. If they need help as they age, an adult child (let’s face it, usually a daughter) will step in to supervise or provide care. These people are called caregivers because in many cases they had to give up other jobs (accountant, teacher, nurse) to take care of Mom and Dad. So, basically, it’s a career change and careers need names.
What happens if you’re on your own?
What happens to older folks who don’t have relatives close by, or at all, to help them with doctor appointments, living independently, and other decisions that come with aging? There is a name for that, too. It’s called being an “elder orphan” and there are a lot of them.
“Twenty three percent of boomers will eventually be without family caretakers, according to Maria Torroella Carney, who has studied the issue and is chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at Northwell Health of Great Neck, N.Y.”*
Here are some ideas for elder orphans to put in place before a crisis happens:*
Consider where you live
Is it walkable, close to medical care, and close to friends who you can rely on?
Get your legal documents in order and accessible to those who will be making decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
Consider communal living with other seniors.
Pool some money monthly for a caregiver or service who can help all of you in one spot.
Develop your social network so that friends can stop by with a meal or help with decisions as you age.
Know your benefits
Be sure you are using the governmental programs available for seniors if you qualify. These include Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Nursing Assistance Program (SNAP), and Administration for Communal Living (see the website for programs and grants www.acl.gov).
Hoping someone will care for you is not a plan. Taking a few prudent steps before retirement will help elders without family caregivers with peace of mind and control over their aging process.