Millions of older adults receive care and support from loved ones. For many, it’s those family caregivers who enable them to age in place successfully.
But more than 20% of current seniors — and even higher percentages of future seniors — don’t have spouses, partners, or children to care for or about them.
In addition, many other seniors have family members who live a long distance away or are estranged. Either way, they aren’t around to provide the caregiving many of older loved ones need.
In an unfortunate irony, many who will face this situation in the future are — or will be — family caregivers themselves, providing for the needs of their parents or other senior loved ones.
What are these “elder orphans” to do when they need help with those things, big and small, they can no longer do effectively for themselves?
In this episode of the Senior Care Corner® Podcast, we want to help raise awareness and let current and future elder orphans know there are many others facing challenges similar to theirs.
Click on the ▷ below to play the podcast (note: you can continue reading while you listen if you want)
Raising awareness of elder orphans is important, first, because many of us may know one who could use some help and not realize it. Understanding their situation is a step toward connecting them with what they need.
Promoting awareness in family caregivers and others who be elder orphans in the future enables them to start planning to meet the needs family caregivers might otherwise provide, things they might not otherwise consider in advance, such as these.
- Determining who would care for them or where they would go if something happened to make them no longer able to care for themselves.
- Establishing a network of people with whom they can communicate and socialize to help avoid isolation.
- Arranging transportation for activities such as shopping, healthcare appointments, social activities, and more, should the elder orphan no longer have the ability or desire to drive.
- Naming a healthcare proxy, someone to make medical decisions should the elder orphan become unable to do so.
- Setting up emergency procedures, such as someone who will check in to ensure the elder orphan is okay, such as after a storm, during a heatwave, or simply after time has past without any interaction.
There are many more things current and future elder orphans should consider doing in advance to help them age successfully.
Conversation with Carol Marak
When we decided to focus a podcast episode on elder orphans, we knew a conversation with Carol Marak was the only way to do it.
It is through social media interactions with Carol that we first learned of this hidden minority among our growing senior population. Finally, we got a chance to meet her at Aging in America this year, where she shared her insights as part of a panel.
After being a family caregiver to her own parents, Carol realized “there is no one who will do that for me.” Since then, she has researched, written, and spoken on the topic of elder orphans.
Carol also created a Facebook group for elder orphans, a place where members can interact and share experiences with others who understand what they are facing.
Links from This Episode
We look forward to sharing more about elder orphans in the future and hope you will check back with Senior Care Corner often for future podcasts and other articles.