You might have heard the term “elder orphan” being tossed around in the news and on different websites, but what exactly is this? An elder orphan is an older individual who does not have any relatives that assist or support them. They might have children or grandchildren, but for all intents and purposes, they are out of the life of that elderly individual when it comes to helping them. Elder orphans do not have other family members to help them and make care decisions for them.
Elder orphans have a unique set of needs. Usually, when an older individual starts to decline in health, they have family members that can step in as a health care proxy. But an elder orphan does not have this. They do not have someone to help them make decisions when they are unable to determine for themselves what kind of senior care is best. In this event, these individuals end up under the care of the state, and their own wishes are seldom placed at a high priority. Unfortunately, this happens far more often than it ever should.
Now is a good time to start taking steps to make sure that our loved ones have all of the legal paperwork filled out to make sure that if a decision needs to be made and they can’t do it that someone can step in and quickly address their care needs. This might be a health care proxy, or it could be some other advance directive.
When we are younger, we very rarely spend time thinking about who will manage our health and finances when we’re older. If you’re married, you might just assume that your spouse will take care of these things. Or, if you have children, you probably assume that your kids will care for you and your things. But what if you outlive your spouse? What if your children aren’t around when you need them? These are common occurrences, but we don’t often think about it until it’s too late. In a perfect situation, these concerns would be addressed long before they are an issue. But thousands of elder orphans are not able to do that now.
If you have an older loved one, and they have not yet made arrangements for a health care proxy or set up a power of attorney, then it is worthwhile to take some time and speak with them about what their preferred plans are and how you can be of help. No one can anticipate what the future holds, and being prepared long before you need to be is the best way to ensure that your loved ones have all of the assistance that they need as they age–whether you are there with them to help or not. There’s no way that we can go out and help all of the elder orphans that exist, although that would be great. What we can do is to take steps to make sure that our family members have everything that they need so that this unfortunate outcome does not happen to them.