‘Solo ager’ speaks out on the need for guidance in end-of-life planning – InForum


Dear Carol: I love your website and your columns; however, I want to request information on how seniors who do not have children can plan for their future. My husband and I are in our mid-60s, and he has early onset Alzheimer’s, so he’s in memory care. We have no children and no close family. How can I find someone I can trust to handle my legal decisions as my health declines with age? I don’t even know where to start. Thanks! — WR.

Dear WR: It’s a good question. Currently, the term for people who are aging without a capable partner or adult children is “lonely elderly,” although even people who have adult children can experience complications. The reason they struggle could be due to physical distance, emotional estrangement, or simply a mismatch of opinions about how seniors’ lives should end. I see this incompatibility most often when it comes to financial issues, but it’s also a question of whether/how an elderly person should be artificially kept alive beyond a certain point, or cremation in relation to burial. Unfortunately, having a spouse isn’t always enough either, as you’ve seen.

Although drafting the paperwork is generally easier for those who can appoint an adult child as a power of attorney (POA), the appropriate professionals are qualified to help people create a plan for their particular situation. In some cases, consulting an estates attorney is sufficient, but since you will have questions beyond the appointment of powers of attorney, an elder law attorney may be preferable. The basics, of course, are powers of attorney for finances and health as well as a will indicating how to distribute your property.

In addition to a lawyer, there are other experts who can advise you. Some could even serve as a power of attorney or find someone in your area who could take on this role.

In the absence of family caregivers, you will probably want to inquire about retirement residences and/or assisted living facilities in order to stay informed of what is available in your area.

Also, if you

go to the Eldercare Locator website

and type in your zip code, you should see an abundance of links specific to supports and services available in your state;


Together with your own doctor, of course, I recommend exploring

geriatrician Leslie Kernisan’s excellent (free) Better Health While Aging website

. Full disclosure: I moderate a caregiver support community for Dr. Kernisan, but this is separate from his website;


Additionally, a geriatric care manager should be familiar with the services that may be available and some even serve as proxies;


Solo aging is a challenge for older WRs, but it’s much more common than in the past. This is because family size has shrunk and adult children have often moved to communities far from their parents. It has nothing to do with love, it’s just a fact of modern life. For this reason, I am convinced that no professional will be surprised by your questions.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a seasoned caregiver and established columnist. She is also a blogger and author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories”. Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and seniors at


. She can be reached via the contact form on her website.


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