Growing old is a challenge with looming ailments and loneliness associated with the penultimate stage of life. But for those without any family to care for and no financial assistance, it is a hugely frightening thought.
Unfortunately, this thought is fast becoming a more common reality than ever before, with more than seven million Americans above 65 years of age below the poverty line. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) states that by 2030, there will be about 16% of women in the age group of 80 and 84 years without children. This is a grim reality that is hitting a lot of what we term as ‘elder orphans’, who are bereft of any family.
Though growing old alone without family assistance is tough, there are ways and means to make life better and easier in those last few years. Many state plans, healthcare facilities, and financial aids are available for older adults. Add to that a bit of future planning and you are ready to waltz into a secure and happy old age.
Read on to find out what kind of financial, medical and care-giving support is available for elderly without family or money. How can they plan better for a lone future in terms of healthcare, finances, and lodging?
What can make solitary living a little easier emotionally?
The Emotional Turmoil of Growing Old Without a Family
Through the ages, humans have been living in societal setups where family and friends play a pivotal role. However, over time, social relations have evolved. From living in huge joint families, people now prefer to stay in a nuclear setup.
In fact, in the new age era, most couples are what we call the DINK couples or double income no kids couples. They believe in living it up without having the responsibility of rearing children.
And for those who have children; work pressures and work-travel prospects sometimes end up distancing them from staying actively and fruitfully engaged in nurturing familial ties. Sometimes, some unfortunate couples lose their spouse at an early age, leaving the other to deal with living alone amongst other things. As a result of which, often elders are found fending for themselves in their old age.
Living alone can exert tremendous emotional and mental pressure on your psyche, especially for those people who are already suffering ailments like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Thus, it is critical to plan for the future well in advance so that you can relish one’s old age.
Planning Is the First Step
Many people today are aging alone with no family to look into their caregiving needs. Out of one in five Americans who are sixty-five age are at risk of being alone as per Maria Torroella Carney who is the chief of palliative and geriatric medicine at Northwell Health of Great Neck.
A 2015 AARP Public Policy report shows that 7.2 potential caregivers for a person above 80 years of age, but it is likely to decrease to 4 by 2030 and 3 by 2050. Given these statistics, it is pertinent to plan well for your future and ensure that you have enough finances, good healthcare, and home to spend your last few years.
1. Finalizing Your Dwelling Place
In your healthy years, plan where you would like to live. Would you like to live alone in a home or move into a community set up with assistance? Once you know what kind of living space you want, you can start saving money for it. Here are a few options for you if you don’t know already have one.
The government and private organizations have many options for the elderly depending on their health status, mobility, and financial condition. From staying in your independent dwelling or moving to a nursing home, here are some home care facilities you can look at:
- Senior Housing
There are apartments meant primarily for people above 55 years of age who want to live independently. These homes cater to the senior’s needs with railings and all furnishings along with stringent security. They also offer social activities and transportation facilities.
- Assisted Living
Assisted living facilities are meant for those seniors who do not need a nursing home’s medical facilities but cannot live independently. In an assisted living dwelling, you are provided with three meals a day in a common dining area along with facilities like laundry, housekeeping, medications, 24/7 security, and staff. Many of these communities have Resident Service Coordinators. These are social workers within the community who can offer free financial help. Seek out, such people. They will be able to guide you in the right direction. And sometimes, it is possible to get into an assisted living facility with little to no money.
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
This is a combination of assisted living, skilled nursing services, and independent living. These communities provide residents with housekeeping, laundry, house maintenance, complete security along with some recreational activities.
- Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are meant for seniors who need full-time care. They have 24-hour medical and nursing services along with personal care services and social activities. These are operated at the state level and get Medicare funding. Elderly without family, who choose to age in place, might choose home care instead of nursing homes, for the comfort of living in a place that they have always been in.
- Alzheimer’s or Memory Care
These are special care dwellings meant for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Memory care facilities have experienced professionals to care for people at various stages of dementia. They offer nursing care, therapy, and activities for the holistic development of people suffering from dementia. There are long-term care homes for such people too. They are meant for seniors under low-income and are funded by the provincial government.
2. Planning For Healthcare Support
Healthcare becomes one of the prime concerns as age progresses. Most elderly people are affected by ailments, and some of them do get incapacitated too. Healthcare is expensive, and hence, it is best to be wise and save in healthcare schemes. If you have not made any healthcare investments, fret not! There are some excellent state and federal programs that can bring down healthcare costs drastically.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a part of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) that offers many programs and schemes for seniors such as medical insurance, prescription drug assistance, and more. The eligibility requirements and benefits might vary over time and differ in every state so it is best to check with CMS about their recent programs.
- Medicare is part of the CMS and offers health insurance covering medical costs for people above 65 years of age. It also pays medical costs of those with Social Security Disability Income for two years.
- Medicaid is a combined Federal and State program made especially for people from the low-income group. It includes medical care along with long-term care. The services offered differ in each state so it is best to check your state’s facilities.
- Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
This is a Medicare program that some states offer to those who need to be looked after in a nursing home. Under this program, you are covered for long-term care, medical, and social service. It covers most of the long-term care costs for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. There is a monthly charge applicable for those qualifying for PACE.
- State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
This is a national program offered in each state. It provides counseling and assistance to elderly people and their families on Medicare, Medigap ( Medicare supplemental insurance), and Medicaid.
- State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs)
This program assists seniors in the low-income group with their prescription medicines.
- Patient Assistant Programs (PAPs)
This program is similar to SPAPs. Under this program, many pharmaceutical and medical supply manufacturers provide prescription drugs to financially deprived seniors at a minimal cost or for free.
3. Getting Your Paperwork in Order
A lot of us pay no heed to paperwork and procrastinate till the very end. However, the future is most uncertain, and it is vital to plan and get things into order for hassle-free retired life. So while you are healthy with all faculties in place, make your will, update your bank papers, and if you have property, decide on who to give the power of attorney to for making crucial decisions in case you are incapacitated.
4. Exploring Financial Care Options
Growing old is a natural phenomenon that nobody can stop. So you should plan for it to be enjoyable and hassle-free. The harshest truth we all must face is that everything runs on money. Thus, it is best to have a tidy nest egg that will see you through the potentially harsh times of old age.
Plan your finances well and much in advance. Have a fund where you save money every month to go into your retirement kitty. Invest in healthcare plans, mutual funds that will give you a lump sum amount when you need it the most, which is after 65 years of age. Here are some financial options you can explore:
Invest in a long-term insurance plan that covers home care, adult day care, hospital visits, nursing homes, and also assisted living.
- Senior Care Bridge Loan
This is a unique loan tool under the “Elderlife Line of Credit”. It is meant to bear the cost of home care, nursing, and assisted living for elders. The funds from this loan go directly to the care providers with some amount allocated to the families for relocation or any other incidental costs.
5. Having a Social Network
When you are in your mid-life engrossed with work and family, you have no time and intention to make friends. However, it is this social circle that comes in handy during old age.
Having the emotional support of friends is a significant morale booster. But it’s never too late to know new people. Join clubs like Toastmaster’s International and Red Hat Society or do social service. It will ensure that you interact with a new group of people and do something interesting.
One social group you must check out is the Elder Orphan Facebook Group. This is no national program but an effort by a remarkable lady, Carol Marak, who realized after seeing her aging parents suffer, that the elderly need a support system for all their basic needs and emotional well-being. Hence, she created a Facebook group called the Elder Orphan, catering to solo seniors.
Only unmarried people above 55 years of age with no children can be a part of the group. It helps people in similar situations connect, provide support and create better communities to grow old. It offers practical approaches to age alone and camaraderie.
Some Additional Programs and Organizations to Help Elderly People
Besides all the healthcare plans and financial programs, some organizations offer protection and care for the elderly orphaned or those in the low-income group.
1. Conservatorships – An Essential Tool for Elderly Orphans
In many states in America, the court appoints a conservator, for people who do not have any family support system and are in the stage where they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. The conservatory is like a guardian who makes financial and healthcare decisions for them. Usually, such adults are sent to a skilled nursing facility, where their healthcare needs are looked after.
2. Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
This is special social security for those under the age of 65 who are unable to work, have a health condition that will prolong for at least a year, and also for those whose health condition will lead to death. People with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and some other serious medical issues get compassionate allowances under SSDI.
3. National Council for Aging (NCOA)
This is a private group that offers a service called BenefitsCheckup. It helps find different State and Federal benefit programs that could help the elderly after getting some general information about them. Many programs help pay for prescription medicines, housing, meal programs, heating bills, and legal aid.
4. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
This program helps people in the low-income group to buy food.
Using Technology for an Easier Living
Besides going in for these state and federal healthcare and housing programs, you should also befriend technology. In the fast-paced world of today where digitization is the key mantra, you must understand it and use it to your advantage. Use these apps to stay connected and offer convenience.
1. Tell My Geo
This app saves your health records over the smartphone and allows a health provider to view them. It also has a GPS locator that lets a caregiver track your whereabouts. It is most applicable for people with dementia.
2. Personal Caregiver
It helps keep track of medications and also gives alerts when it is time to take a medicine or restore the prescription drugs.
This mobile app keeps you abreast with financial news and special offers for seniors.
4. Sciddy App
A great app that helps you save money on food, entertainment, travel, health, and more. It has a listing that offers discounts on these services. Besides these apps, there are many programs to keep your brain cells ticking and help you stay mentally alert. Try Elevate Brain Training and Lumosity to improve cognitive skills, memory, and confidence.
An increasing number of people have chosen to live single or childless to concentrate on their professional and personal life goals. Some of them do have children and family but are still left to fend for themselves towards the end of their lives. Thus, the ‘elder orphan’ is often left to battle the problems related to old age on his own.
It can get quite challenging if proper planning and investments are not made at the right time. Thus, social and national healthcare and financial assistance plans play a critical role. Use these schemes to your advantage and if you don’t have a plan in place already; get started today!