By Max Roberts
As we get older, we realize that life can give us some challenges when we least expect it. We can feel great one day and then all of a sudden ..you may have a chest pain or a discomfort in your lower abdominal.
As we age, we may be without a partner or spouse when we actually are the most vulnerable. Our spouse may have passed on or we may be divorced. Our children maybe out of town or one may not have any children.
The following quotes form our survey of single people ageing without advocates highlight very real fears.
“The rise in day surgery & speedy discharge from hospital – who will I be discharged home to?”
“Have a fear of being one of those old ladies in the hospital/care home who people feel ‘sorry for’ because she doesn’t have any family so she doesn’t get any visitors!”
“Illness is my biggest fear – I seriously worry .. Who will care for me if I have even mild illness, let alone a serious one like dementia?”
“Any illness requiring hospital treatment is also much harder without an advocate, preferably someone with an emotional attachment who is naturally disposed to fight for you through thick and thin”
“Nobody to speak up for me when I cannot speak up for myself – especially where healthcare is concerned.
My mother died recently, aged 93, and had she not had me she would not have got anywhere near the level of
support from doctors, social workers, carers etc, as she did”
“It’s only recently occurred to me, since I started working with older adults in a hospital, just how much care families are expected to provide. I’m starting to get concerned that if I’m sick there will be limited support for me and I’ll get stuck in hospital for ages or have to live in a home. That frightens me”
What can we do about this? Many people ageing are carers themselves for their parents and are very aware of how hard you have to push at times to make things happen in a hospital setting.
We all need someone to turn to for help in getting to and from Doctor visits and to be your advocate if something happens and you are not able to speak. Despite being independent , one must start considering what would happen if you became ill. It doesn’t mean that I want you to spend all your time worrying about death and not LIVING. But it is important to plan something now while you are healthy than to leave it until the day you are unable to speak or you are in an emergency situation. So prepare for your ill-health Back Up Plan now while you are well.
First, you must have some people in your life that can be your emergency contact and/ or be designated as your Power of Attorney for Health Care. You must have a support system in place. He or she must know what your position is regarding medical directives and end of life. Typically, these support systems are your immediate family members like siblings and alike. But there are many single people that utilize close friends or ex lovers.
Second, one must have your papers in order and filed in a way that a person can actually find them with out too much assistance from you.It is important to have this information available so they can make the best decisions possible for you.
Power of Attorney
Health Care Proxy or Living Will
List of bank accounts, credit cards,
numbers and locations.
Health and medical insurance information
Life insurance policies
Names of your :
Doctors, Lawyers, Accountant
You may leave Wills, Life Insurance policies, Tax Returns to your attorney to protect your personal decisions.
For Advanced Health Care Directives:
Choose someone who will talk with you now about your wishes, who will understand what you want and your priorities about health care, and who will do as you ask faithfully when the time comes.
Choose someone who lives near you or could travel to be with you, if needed.
Choose someone you trust with your life.
Choose someone who can handle conflicting opinions from family members, friends and medical personnel.
Choose someone who can be a strong advocate if a doctor or institution is unresponsive.
I do want you to realize that having a spouse may not be as powerful a predictor of whether you will die alone as whether you have maintained a close circle of friends. Please don’t try to find a husband or wife only because your afraid to die alone. You are not unusual. Again, this isn’t about scaring you but lending you a hand so you are prepared to enlist a support group in your time of need and in the way you want it to be directed and avoiding the worst case scenario of dying alone .
Finally as a side note, we as a society must change the way hospitals receive single patients as well , especially now that the population is aging .
- Hospital staff need to be more aware of the issues around people ageing without children or spouses.
- Hospitals need to identify when people are admitted if they are ageing without children/ spouses and partner them with local advocacy services.
Keep Aging Forward Wisconsin!