Ask yourself these questions… do you live alone? Are you among the 22% of people in the US who are 65 and older? If you answered YES, then you just might be in the “elder orphan” category.

An elder orphan is described as an older individual without a spouse or children to depend on in a time of declining health.

Many seniors have put a plan in place for their passing by setting up wills, trusts, and pre-paying for funerals. As a healthcare professional, I find it interesting that they rarely have a plan for aging, let alone getting sick or becoming unable to care for themselves.  

Aging alone is a particular cause for concern among women as they typically outlive their male spouses by 5 years. Even if you’re not currently living alone, it’s something that may become your reality.

Here’s a tip that medical practitioners definitely stand behind… Don’t wait until a time of a medical crisis to put a healthcare plan in place!

I was recently contacted by a woman living in a continuing care retirement community. I met with the 80 year-old widow and although she was in good health, she expressed concern about who would advocate for her if she ended up in the hospital.

She’s watched several friends experience major medical problems recently and she reached out to me because she didn’t want to risk being alone in the hospital. Her siblings had all passed away and her closest relative was a nephew who lived 4 hours away.

Does this sound familiar to you or someone you care about?

Many seniors are very unprepared for aging and lack family or friends that can help them during a challenging health crisis. Having a plan in place and a health advocate can really help you navigate the future.

The best news is you can start today! Follow these simple steps and put a plan in place:

Find a place to live. While you are still healthy consider where you might want to live as you age. Consider choosing a location where you have access to public transportation. You may also want to move into a senior living community that offers multiple levels of care such as independent living, personal care, memory care, and skilled nursing care.

Organize your documents. Take the time to gather important documents and put them in a location that’s easy to find. Make sure your physician has a copy of your Advanced Directives and the phone number of your Durable Medical Power of Attorney. This designated individual will need to make decisions about your care if you are suddenly unable to speak on your own behalf.

Invest in social connections. As we age friends can become our biggest network of support. Take the time to expand your group of friends by joining clubs, volunteering, remaining active in your church, or attending a senior center. At a time of great need, a friend may be able to assist with transportation, bring a meal, or pick up groceries or prescriptions.

Plan for a medical crisis. Take the time before something changes in your health to determine who you can rely on in case of an medical emergency. Do you have someone close by that can be there for you if you end up in the emergency room or are admitted to the hospital? If your Medical Power of Attorney lives out of the area, you need to make sure you have someone close by that can stay at your bedside until the POA is more available.

My 80-year old client has taken control of her future by putting a healthcare plan in place with the help of our health advocacy services.

She has moved into a senior living community, has all of her health care documents in place, has made long-term arrangements for her beloved poodle, and stays quite active in her new community.

She made the smart choice to plan for a medical emergency by contacting Severino Health Advisors to be her advocate and to be at her side when her time of need arrives.