Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Preventing Senior Isolation: Can You Actually Adopt a Senior?

A recent article in The Washington Post focused on the millions of Chinese citizens living alone. There was a particular emphasis on one: Han Zicheng. He literally wanted to be adopted.

Han posted note in a bus shelter. According to the Post, the headline read: "Looking for someone to adopt me." The text that followed said: "Lonely old man in his 80s. Strong-bodied. Can shop, cook and take care of himself. No chronic illness. I retired from a scientific research institute in Tianjin, with a monthly pension of 6,000 RMB [$950] a month."

A woman saw the note and posted it on social media, and Han received extensive media coverage.

Unfortunately, he died March 17 – his death mostly unnoticed, his adoption just a dream.

About 15 million people in the U.S. live alone, including 27 percent of the 65-plus population. Carol Marak, an advocate on behalf of older adults and family caregivers, calls these people "elder orphans." Isolation can lead to poor physical and mental health as well as thoughts of suicide – thoughts Han had as he desperately sought companionship.

Legal Adoption Fraught With Minefields

Obviously, I'm not a legal expert, but from what I've read, in very specific circumstances you can adopt someone older than yourself. You don't have to stretch much to see the potential of elder fraud and abuse. What commonly happens when an older adult cannot take care of him or herself is guardianship.

According to the National Guardianship Association, "Guardianship is a legal process, utilized when a person can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about his/her person and/or property or has become susceptible to fraud or undue influence."

Guardianship gone wrong can be disastrous. Just ask Catherine Falk, Peter Falk's (Columbo) daughter. In 2009, during her legal battle to see her ailing father, she proposed a "Right of Association" bill for the state of California, enabling visitation rights among family members when an ailing, incapacitated loved one who is being wrongly isolated by a guardian or power of attorney. She has joined forces with the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse in an effort to pass legislation in every state across America to prevent this.

An Adoption Mindset

OK, so perhaps legal adoption is out of the question. You can think instead about developing an adoption mindset. Here are some things we can do as a community.
  • We covered home sharing in a previous article. In the context of that article, it was more about the older person having someone move into their house. But it could work the opposite way, too, having someone live with a family.
  • The Adopt an Elder Foundation in California provides financial and advocacy assistance to low-income elders that affords them the opportunity to maintain an appropriate degree of independence and quality of life. Other communities can emulate this.
  • In Charlotte, North Carolina, Love Inc help congregations in forming one or more LINC (Love In the Name of Christ) teams. A team is a group of six to 12 individuals who agree to provide certain types of services such as transportation, grocery shopping, yard work, house cleaning, visitation, meal preparation and telephone contact.
  • If you need inspiration, check out Angela Bronson's buddy program in Los Angeles. Once a month, her third-grade students visit residents in the Jewish Home for the Aging. where they interview and write a short biography on the life of their elderly buddy. This can easily be adapted for home-bound elders.

Elder Orphans and Potential Orphans Can Help Themselves, Too

Consider that 19 percent of women ages 40 to 45 have no children, and you quickly realize that this problem can continue for generations. So, it's best to be prepared sooner than later.
  • Make sure you're legally protected as you age. Do you have a will, an estate plan, a trust, a medical and financial power of attorney, and an advanced directive?
  • Are you in the best possible health? Evaluate your eating habits. Look at your exercise routine. Staying healthy is the key to aging in place, in your home.
  • Surround yourself with people, in essence, forming a "family" to substitute for a spouse and children. Create a lifestyle that does not isolate you.
  • Consider a move to an urban area where you can walk to nearby locations while in turn keeping fit.
  • You might consider a move even if you already live in an urban area. If your home isn't suited for aging in place, you might need to find a place that will serve you better.
  • Aging alone can lead to mental decline unless you consciously work on it.
  • Carol has created the Elder Orphans Facebook group that people can join for mutual support. There are nearly 8,000 members. She has taken that further and formed her own local group that physically meets in her community.

Working together as a community and with our older adults, we can minimize isolation and all of the bad effects it can have on quality of life for older adults.

Full Article & Source:
Preventing Senior Isolation: Can You Actually Adopt a Senior?

1 comment:

Susan said...

Adopting a senior is a wonderful idea!