How to Plan Your Elder Care as a Childless Person
When asked why people have kids, quite a few answer, "To have someone to take care of me when I'm older." So, what happens to those of us who don't have children? I'm personally hoping for some really appreciative nephews to take the job (*wink wink*), but just in case, it's good to be prepared. As of 2010, about 12% of people ages 80 to 84 in the United States never had children. According to sixtyandme.com, in 2010, there were about "seven potential caregivers for every person over the age of eighty...by 2050, it's expected to fall to three to one." This could be due to the fact that childlessness is on the rise, with more people choosing not to have kids, or not having them by chance. By the time Millennials are in need of care, resources will be much less.
So...what should we do to prepare?
1. Hire a lawyer.
Speak to an elder law attorney first. They will be the most informed about everything you need to protect yourself and your assets, while getting the proper care you need. Make sure your lawyer specializes in chronic care advocacy and can help you with your will.
2. Think Golden Girls.
Sure, we all want to be Betty White because, let's face it, she's awesome, but living in a household with a group of trusted friends or family members might not be such a bad idea. Much like Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia, it helps to be surrounded by a group of people you trust that help take care of you, should anything happen. And if your friends aren't up for the task, it's perfectly acceptable to ask a niece, nephew, or cousin's kid to see if they would be willing to take you in. You'd be surprised as to how many people say yes!
3. Get a last will and testament.
This may be easily overlooked if you don't have a spouse or kids or even pets to worry about, but getting an official will in place is critical to making sure everything that happens after your gone goes smoothly. Think about people like Aretha Franklin and Prince who didn't have wills in place--their poor families and loved ones are still waiting for decisions to be made! Plus, having a will allows you to make sure all of your money and stuff goes exactly where you'd like. Want to donate all of your money to the ASPCA? Put it in your will. Want your shoe collection to go to your niece's daughter so she can play dress up? Put it in your will. You get the idea.
4. Get an advanced directive on file with your local hospital and state.
This includes a living will, instruction directive, health care proxy, and power of attorney. A living will and instruction directive tell people what kind of care you want and don't want when you are unable to express it. For instance, if you can only stay alive while hooked up to machines, do you want to stay hooked up or would you rather be taken off them? It's hard to put that kind of pressure on someone, so having a living will on file helps take that burden off of others. Find out how to sign up for an advanced directive in your state.
5. Choose a healthcare proxy.
Pick a person you trust (usually a nearby family member or friend) to make healthcare decisions for you when you can't. Use your advanced directive to tell that person exactly what you want so they don't have to guess. Be as specific as possible. Again, consult your elder law attorney if you are unsure of any questions or next steps.
6. Save up and prepare for long-term costs.
It's easy to live in the moment, and with the way the economy is going, it's hard to think about how you're going to pay bills today, let alone 50 years in the future. But, if you live in a remote state like Alaska, your monthly cost for a room at a nursing home could be upwards of $40,000! (And that's at 2019 prices! It'll probably only get more expensive as time goes by.) Sure, other areas like Kansas and Washington DC have lower rates, but overall, elderly living does not come cheap. Putting away money into your 401K, IRA, Roth IRA, or investing in long-term care insurance will only benefit you down the road. Find out average monthly costs for nursing homes in your state.
7. Don't forget self-care.
All of this money and lawyer talk isn't the only important parts of elderly care planning. Take into consideration how you are treating your body and mind now. Are you eating healthily? Getting enough exercise? Meditating? Continuing a healthy self-care regimen is a great way to keep feeling better now and in the future.
8. Invest in your social network.
No, I don't mean buy stock in Facebook (although, that's always an option). Keeping yourself connected with your friends, church groups, and/or meet-up groups will keep you active and feeling young. Socializing at senior centers and doing senior-based activities will keep you connected with your peers and ultimately happier. Your friends may also have great connections and knowledge on the best places to dine, visit, and what local events to attend. Can't get around because you can no longer drive? Hire a transportation service to drive you around and complete your daily errands. Staying home alone without social interaction will only bring down your mood and sense of self-worth. And you are worth driving around town!
Looking for More Information?
Family Caregiver Alliance caregiver.org, (800) 445-8106
National Family Caregivers Association, nfcacares.org, (800) 896-3650
Share, sharecancersupport.org, (866) 891-2392
CancerCare, cancercare.org, (800) 813-4673
What are your thoughts? Is there anything else you'd want to do to prepare?