When an older adult lives with their extended family, like they often do when they reside outside of the U.S., there’s a support system built right into their daily life. However, that kind of support system isn’t there for older adults in the U.S. who live on their own. Seniors in the U.S. who don’t have any family members to provide care for them are called “solo seniors” or “solo agers.”
4 Elder Law Tips for Solo Seniors
If you’re a solo senior, it’s especially important for you to do some planning now so you chart your own course for the future, and the possibility that one day you may need more help.
1. Meet with an Elder Law Attorney
Without an estate plan, the court might need to assign you a guardian — a stranger who would make important decisions about where you live, what health care you get, and your end of life care. An elder law attorney in Massachusetts can help you create the documents you need, so you can document your own choices.
Durable Power of Attorney: This allows a person you trust to manage your finances, as well as business and legal matters, in the event you become unable to do so yourself. That means they can take money out of your bank account, pay your bills, and even make court appearances for you until you recover and are able to handle your own affairs. You can appoint a loved one, an attorney, or other professional to act in this role.
Health Care Proxy: Choose someone you trust to make medical decisions for you in case you become incapacitated. It allows your health care team and loved ones to know what kind of care you want. You can appoint a loved one, an attorney, or a social worker to make these decisions. Don’t forget to discuss your wishes with this person.
Living Will: A living will works in conjunction with a health care proxy by expressing your wishes as to how your designated agent should proceed in specific circumstances. Do you want life-prolonging treatment if you have a terminal illness? Do you want a respirator to help you breathe? You can choose a loved one, an attorney, or a social worker to be your agent.
Will or revocable trust: A will outlines who will receive your property after you pass way and who will manage your estate (“the executor”). You can choose a loved one, attorney, or other professional for this position. You may choose to do a trust instead since it avoids probate and would name someone to manage the trust’s assets if you become incapacitated.
In addition, you should talk to the elder law attorney about MassHealth (Medicaid in Massachusetts), which is designed to pay for a senior’s long-term care once their funds and assets are extremely limited. There may be some planning to do in advance so you’ll be eligible for MassHealth if you ever need it.
2. Create a Safety Plan
Since you live alone, it’s good to have a plan in place in case you have a medical emergency and need help in your home. Smartphones have apps that require you to check in periodically. If they don’t hear from you as expected, an alert will be sent to your emergency contact. Some apps will contact the local police and request a wellness check. There are also more traditional systems that involve wearing a monitor that detects when you fall, and then notifies emergency services.
3. Think About Living in Community Housing
There are various community living options, including Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Massachusetts. They’re a combination of independent living, assisted living, and a nursing home. In these communities, people live independently as long as they can. As time passes, if they need help, they can get assistance in that same community.
You might also choose to have a roommate in your house. You’d feel less lonely and you’d have someone to share the chores. Of course, you should run a background check on any potential new roommate. The article “8 Housing Options for Seniors Who Don’t Want to Live Alone” discusses some other housing options to look into.
4. Organize an Aging Team
This could include a couple of the following: a friend, family member, neighbor, elder law attorney, accountant, doctor, geriatric care manager, or financial advisor. Try to keep in contact with them on a regular basis so they know how you’re doing. If it sounds like something isn’t going well on your end or they don’t hear from you, they can step in to get you help.
If You Are a Solo Senior, Contact Our Elder Law Attorney Today
For solo seniors, it’s important to plan now to be taken care of in the future. As an elder law attorney in Massachusetts, I can help you create your estate planning documents and provide guidance in regard to MassHealth planning. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.299.6976 to set up a free, confidential consultation.