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  • Writer's pictureKathy L. McNair, Esq.

Now What? When You Never Expected To Be Alone?

Life has a way of throwing curveballs. Perhaps you are married, but your spouse has dementia or a serious illness. You are still independent and healthy and taking care of your spouse. But, if you ever need help, who will be there for you? Maybe your children moved away or, for reasons beyond your control, you just cannot count on them to be there for you. Suddenly, you find yourself in a position you never expected, planning on aging alone.

As an Elder Law Attorney in Boston, Massachusetts, I have helped many seniors without family to rely upon. Planning makes all the difference to ensure your wishes are honored and protect your dignity.  

One of my clients, Ellen, never thought she would be alone. She came from a big Italian family, with three sisters who all lived near each other. When Ellen and her sisters got older, she was the one who took care of everyone. As each of her sisters needed more help she cared for them. Eventually, she was the last one living.

Ellen put together a solid plan for her own future. She found a trustworthy professional to serve as her fiduciary and help her navigate her life as her needs changed, and she executed estate planning documents to make her wishes and instructions known. This planning ensured that her wishes were honored during her life and that her legacy was fulfilled after she died. If you are planning aging alone, are you prepared for the future?

Here are a few tips to get started:

Who Will Show Up?

Think about who will show up when you need them. Perhaps you have a friend or neighbor who you can count on to help you out in small ways, but you can only expect them to do so much. If you ever need assistance with managing your health care needs or finances, you may need to hire professionals.

For example, Geriatric Care Managers can help coordinate the care that you need. Health Care Advocates can help you face a difficult medical diagnosis and weigh your options, so you are not alone. Professional fiduciaries can be ready to make medical, financial, and legal decisions and hire people to help you have the best quality of life possible.

Daily money managers and financial advisors can support you in keeping your finances organized and on track. Now is the time to identify and build a support team of allies ready to step in and help you in case there is a crisis, or you start to need more help. It will be too late once a crisis happens. Who will be on your team? If you don’t know where to start, includes a nationwide directory of trustworthy professionals ready to support you.

Will Your Home Work if Your Needs Change?

Perhaps you want to stay in your own home for as long as you possibly can. If so, take steps now to prepare your home in case your needs change in the future, by making any needed repairs or renovations. A first-floor bathroom will be important if you plan on aging in place.

As scary as a big move may be, it may be better to move to a community where you are not alone. There are many housing options for seniors, from independent living communities to assisted living facilities to co-housing communities. Consider what would be the best fit for your needs and preferences. If you are interested in exploring your options, a senior living advisor can help you learn more about the options in your area and help you find the right fit for you.

Do You Have Legal Documents?

Ensure you have legal documents in place to protect you. At a minimum, this includes a will, a power of attorney, and a healthcare directive. An elder law attorney can help you understand what documents you need and help you set them up. Without the right documents in place, you could lose control and a stranger could be appointed as your guardian.

Becoming a solo senior may not have been what you expected, but with the right support and resources, you can age on your own terms and ensure your wishes are honored. It is important to have a plan in place for now that is good enough. It does not need to be perfect.

It is important to review your plan and make sure the members of your team are still the right choice, at least once per year or as your needs change. You can always make changes as life unfolds. You don’t need to figure this out by yourself.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

If you are planning on aging alone, what are your concerns about making sure you are prepared for the future? Would you like to hear more about planning for your future? Let’s get a conversation started. There are many creative ways to approach planning for the future, and I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and feedback.

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