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  • Writer's pictureKathy Quinn

Aging and Alone? Who Will Hold Your Hand Through Healthcare Challenges?

As a Certified Senior Advisor and Board Certified Patient Advocate, I am a valuable resource to help seniors navigate the various challenges of aging.

There are terms used to describe those who are aging and alone. “Elder Orphans” is one. “Solo Seniors” is another. Both describe the concept of someone who is older and has no family or younger friends to help out in time of medical crisis (or, for that matter, any other life-assisting event like moving, or shifting financial needs.)

If these terms describe you, then you may be asking yourself questions like:

  • Who will help you make end-of-life decisions?

  • Who will help you make decisions if you get sick?

  • Who can help you decide when it’s time to move to assisted-living or skilled nursing care?

  • Who can help you organize and review overwhelming medical bills?

  • …. and that’s just the start, especially during this time of pandemic when healthcare is more confusing than ever before.

So we’re here today with some suggestions to help you get past these hurdles.

Consider Mr. Henry, a 78-year-old retired veteran. Mr. Henry lost his wife three years ago. They never had children. His siblings, all older than he, have passed on, too. He’s quite healthy at the moment, but knows that could change at any time. He has many friends, but they are in his same age group, so he doesn’t want to depend on them to be there when his health is challenged.

A very forward-thinking Mr. Henry went in search of someone to help him make decisions now. In particular, he wanted help with advance directives (living will, healthcare proxy paperwork, POLST, MOLST, DNR – do-not-resuscitate order, and others). 

He also wanted to find someone who could make medical decisions for him, if that time ever came. Suppose he suffered a stroke or a heart attack, or some other medical or accidental event that took away his ability to make his own decisions? Who would make sure his directives and choices were honored?

Mr. Henry’s neighbor Carleen told him about a service she had used when her mother, who lives hundreds of miles away, and was suddenly hospitalized: Through AdvoConnection, she found a health advocate named Janet who lived and worked not far from her mother, and was able to coordinate all the services her mother needed.

Janet jumped in immediately to keep an eye on her mom until Carleen got there the next day. She was able to provide advice about the steps needed when Carleen’s mom was discharged to a skilled nursing center, and the details that needed to be attended to at her mother’s home (who would feed the cat, or water the plants?). Janet had all the knowledge and resources needed to help Carleen and her mother make the decisions, the changes, and the transition go as smoothly as possible. Carleen sang Janet’s praises! They continue to stay in touch so that Janet can step in, if needed, again in the future.

So who is Janet ?  Janet is an independent health advocate. She doesn’t work for the hospital or for an insurer. She doesn’t work for anyone but the patient – who pays her directly. Just like one would hire a lawyer for legal help, or go to the hairdresser for grooming services, or find a professional to prepare annual tax returns, Janet is hired for her ability to navigate patient-clients through the healthcare system, removing (or repaving!) those bumps in the road, or finding detours when appropriate.

Mr. Henry could see that someone like Janet would be just the answer for an older person who is alone. So he went online to and has now contracted with Angie, an advocate who lives not far from him. Angie has already helped him coordinate all his paperwork, decision-making, communication, and more, providing Mr. Henry with the confidence that, even though he is alone, he is being well taken care of. Further, he was pleasantly surprised at how little it cost for the value – so little to pay for so much peace of mind.

If you are an Elder Orphan / Solo Senior – older and alone – you owe it to yourself to at least ask questions of an independent health advocate. Here is a list of questions you can use to start the conversation. If you have trouble doing a search, ask someone to help.  From there, it’s as easy as picking up the phone, or sending an email. 

You owe it to yourself!  A little effort – and plenty of peace of mind.

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