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Helping a Child-Free Elderly Relative

Many seniors rely on their adult children for help with caregiving and care decisions, but what about a sibling, aunt or uncle who has no children?
Seniors who have remained child-free often have a greater sense of independence than their with-children counterparts and may be significantly more self-reliant since they could not call upon adult children for help. When deteriorating health threatens that self-reliance, they may hesitate to ask for help—either because they don’t want to give up their independence or because they don’t want to be a “bother” to extended friends and family.

Examining Your Relationship

The relationship you have with your aging relatives often depends upon how close you were over the years. Families will find it helpful if the ties are strong enough to broach the subject of an older relative’s care options. If a beloved aunt or uncle lavished attention on nieces or nephews, then those family members may feel more compelled to step up and help when the time comes. If the aunt or uncle were rarely involved in their relatives’ lives, this may make it more difficult to elicit a sense of obligation to participate in a plan of care.
Start the conversation with asking about their health. If they’re receptive to sharing information with you, you can take that opportunity to ask what you can do to help. Emphasize how much you care about their well-being. With that assurance, they may accept your help and guidance in preparing for their future needs.
Individuals who have spent much of their lives on their own may value their privacy. If your relative feels reluctant to share information about finances or healthcare concerns with you or others in the extended family, ask them to confide in a trusted friend.

Exploring Options

One of best solutions for elderly individuals who find themselves in declining health and have no children or other close relatives to take on a family caregiver role is to enlist the help of a home care agency. They provide professional caregivers who come into the home and help with activities of daily living, as well as housekeeping, meal preparation, and grocery shopping. Chronic health conditions might necessitate a move into an assisted living facility or other long-term care community.
Many child-free seniors have a financial advantage in funding these options since they may have been able to save more money over their lifetime due to not having the expenses associated with raising a family or putting children through college.

If child-free seniors devote time to good financial planning, they should have the resources to finance their care needs throughout the course of their lives. The best and most appreciated role for you would be to visit your elderly relative often and to provide a caring presence in their life.

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