Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

If you are over 50 and single, what do you think would happen if you got really sick?

Asked by wundayatta (58525points) December 10th, 2009

I asked this question about closeness of family, and during the discussion it seemed that some people really had no contact with family to speak of. This made me start to wonder what happens to people who really have no one close when they start to reach that part of life where they are frail and their health is problematic.

It seems like many people are cared for by their children. But what about those who have no children? Do friends care for them? What if they don’t have any close friends who are willing and able to help them? Is it the state? Social Services?

So if there is anyone in a situation where you could wind up elderly without anyone who would obviously be willing to care for you, or if you know anyone like this, what do you think will happen? Do you have a plan? Will you just see what happens?

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28 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Well, my husband and I are childless, and I think about this a lot. We need clear medical directives. I also have resolved that dealing with our health and our arrangements should not be a burden on our nephews who are the only offspring of that generation.

JLeslie's avatar

You have touched on a real fear of mine being childless. My husband and I are in our early 40’s so I have not actively done anything yet to ensure we are taken care of, but I do think about it.

galileogirl's avatar

I had a life threatening illness about 5 years ago but I could still use the phone. Evidently I should have called an ambulance but I called my daughter to help me pack a bag and accompany me to the ER in a cab. After that I left a key to my place with the school so that if I didn’t show up one morning, they could send someone to check on me.

I’ll be retiring in June and I already plan to use that service that calls you once a day and calls your contact person if you don’t answer the phone.

I was on the other side about 30 years ago when one of my bookkeepers didn’t show up for work. I gave her a couple of hours because she commuted. When I called her she answered but she didn’t seem to understand what I was saying so I found her next of kin and called her. She lived about 50 miles from her sister and it took some convincing to get the sister to drive over and see what was going on. It turned out the employee had a series of heart attacks and a stroke and was never able to return to work. Getting your friends to call you when you miss an appointment is the best way.

gailcalled's avatar

I hope that Milo remembers how to dial 911.

But I have a sister and bro-in-law around the corner, two really close friends near-by, and a daughter who could fly 3400 miles if and when she is needed.

We do keep an eye on each other, particularly now in snow and ice season and sub-freezing temps.

galileogirl's avatar

I have a coworker who called or visited her 80 yo mother every day. One day she found her mother had fallen the night before. Even though the woman was alive and her daughter had visited her less than 24 hours before, she never recovered and died a few weeks later. To be sure of getting help in time, you need one of those alert devices.

gailcalled's avatar

My mother wears one around her neck. It is called Medical Alert or something similar.

nope's avatar

This is a great question, and something that’s been on my mind recently. Like @JLeslie, I knew someone who worked for me (indirectly), who didn’t show up to work one day. This in itself was unusual, because she was never sick, but she didn’t call in, which was not her personality. It took us a day to eventually find the right contact person (her sister), who went over to see if everything was okay, and found our employee had died, alone, in her home. This was nearly 20 years ago, it still makes me sad.

I have a friend who has an elderly (80’s) cousin, who has no family nearby. The cousin has taken ill recently, and my friend is commuting to LA to visit, and taking care of his cousin’s bills, benefits, etc. I admire him for doing this, and he does it because he knows his cousin has nobody else to take care of him. I think he’ll be setting his cousin up in an assisted living situation, but eventually his plan is to move him here, if he has to.

I got divorced a couple years ago, and find myself living alone every other week when my kids aren’t around. Recently, I got sick (just mildly), and when nobody was around, I started to wonder what would happen if I REALLY got sick. Would I have to call 911 for myself? Or drag my sorry butt into the emergency room? I have to tell you, this train of thought resulted in more than a bit of anxiety.

I’m lucky in that I have family nearby, and I think I would be calling on them if I really needed help. The question is a good one, because people should think about this, and have some sort of plan for themselves.

nebule's avatar

I’m not over 50 but I do worry about things happening to me (like falling down the stairs, falling off a chair, not waking up, having a stroke, heart attack…etc…yes I’m nearing hypochondria stage…) and no-one knowing..with only a 3 year old in the house he wouldn’t know what to do… and I think it would take at least 24 hours before anyone came round to see if I was ok….

but I don’t think this is quite what you meant…but thought I’d chip in anyway…

Darwin's avatar

If I can afford it I’ll sell my house and move into one of those senior living communities. But I would have to wait until all of the cats and dogs have died.

faye's avatar

I will get a Lifeline-alert method when I’m older. For now I have put a telephone downstairs in case I can’t get back up those stairs

rooeytoo's avatar

It is interesting that you address this primarily to childless couples or singles. Seems as if not too long ago there was a question asked about taking care of parents and many said it was not their job. I wonder statistically how many do take care of parents or just plop them into an old folks home and visit once or twice a year???

Anyhow, I have only ever considered what I would do in the case of a catastrophic illness in which case I would pull the car into the garage, hop in with the ipod and dogs. A candy bar and a real coke for me and a box of biscuits for the dogs. Turn on the engine and feed the dogs biscuits until we all went to sleep. I would probably give us all a couple of xanax first to take off the edge.

If I were just getting old and decrepit I would try to find someone who would move in with me and the dogs and keep an eye on us with the provision they would receive recompense in my will.

My mate has children from a previous marriage. I don’t know if they would want to take care of him or what would happen?

No use worrying, I will figure it out as we go along.

Zen_Again's avatar

Die – either of loneliness or the illness.

JLeslie's avatar

@rooeytoo Good point. My sister worked as an at home nurse, and many of her patients were elderly, many of them had children, and too often the children did not do much to care for their parents. But, I think people who are single or don’t have children might think about it more, the idea that there will be no family to help when we get older or sick, because it is more of a realty. People with children might hope their children will come through, but of course there is no guarantee.

juwhite1's avatar

I’m planning to die alone. I had a hysterectomy when I was 19, and married a man who is 11 years older than me, so I pretty much plan on being alone when die. It depresses me, but I can always hope to get lucky and die in an accident rather than facing a lonely decline before my death. I think this is the most depressing question I’ve ever seen on Fluther.

Zen_Again's avatar

@juwhite1 We’ll chat here until we expire, deal?


get ya self own to the doctors or ring them up if your ill, why waste ya life worrieing bout it now when it aint happened yet, do sumat bout it when it do! im sure theres millions of ppl who get help when they need it if they speak up. its the ones who keep quiet and hide indoors and not let no one know how they are that end up in that state. if you want sumat ya gotta go get it not expect it to come to you! thats life!

Zen_Again's avatar

Now if I could only trade quips for sex…

Darwin's avatar

@Zen_Again – Isn’t that what famous comedians do with their groupies?

wundayatta's avatar

@DAVETHERAV1D So are you implying that the ones who are too sick or too injured or too shy or who have too little a sense of self worth or who feel they don’t have a voice, and even if they did no one would listen to it should what? Fall down in the bathtub and die? ‘Cause, Lord knows, people who won’t or can’t speak up for themselves are pretty much set for the glue factory anyway. No reason to slow them on their way.

rooeytoo's avatar

@daloon – I didn’t know you spoke that language! sumat???

wundayatta's avatar

@rooeytoo Any inclination that I intended linguistic that language is purely unintentionary, and should be alarmed pending dissipation.

rooeytoo's avatar

@daloon – heheheh, gotcha!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

When I can no longer care for myself, that’s when I eat a bullet.

Coloma's avatar

I’m 50, divorced 7 yrs. and have one adult daughter age 22.

I do think of this on occasion..especially the emergency stuff like not having anyone in the house to share a scary health moment with such as wondering of you are, infact, having a heart attack or some such thing. lol

But..all in all I am not one to waste much energy futurizing about negative possibilities…I’m sure I will deal with whatever happens as it arises…either you get sick and live or you get sick and die…not too much gray area in between.

If I was truly scared about a strange symptom I would call my daughter, a friend or 911.

Coloma's avatar


Thats sad, I have read that the highest risk suicide group is men over 60.

I hope you can keep finding some measure of joy no matter what. :-(

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Coloma I lost my wife to a traffic accident 5 months ago. She was my reason for living. I’m no longer suicidal, but have no real “hold” on life. I just don’t care whether I live or die and I refuse to be a burden on others. It’s a rational decision, IMHO, that if I become unable to care for myself, I will remove myself from this world. I also have an advanced-care directive that requires that I not be placed on life support and that I also refuse to be placed in a nursing home. My attorneys have be instructed to vigorously defend these directives.

The advanced-care directives were written to cover a situation like a stroke, where I might be unconcious or suddenly become so feeble as to be unable to pick up a pistol and squeeze the trigger.

Aster's avatar

I know an older lady in her late 70’s who was living alone and had no kids. She kept driving downtown and would stop the police and ask for directions. daily they’d see her so they either found our number in her purse or she said to call us! We were asked to come get her car at the police station and park it at her house. She had Alzheimer’s, they discovered, and some way or another a lawyer was contacted and he put her house up for sale and is paying for her NHome. It’s like the police have their ways of taking care of these things. At least in a small town. god knows what would have happened had she been driving around a huge city.

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