Sociologists and popular social critics alike have been discussing the erosion of the nuclear family for years. Fewer people are having children, so what is to become of those seniors who are aging "outside the nuclear family"?
The baby-boomers are just starting to enter retirement, and they are far more likely than previous generations to have remained childless throughout life. Many never actually married and others have already lost their spouses. What will happen to these people if they become disabled, incapacitated, or develop a chronic illness?
Most in-home care for the elderly is performed by family members. Hospital stays are getting shorter, driven by cost-saving initiatives, making it even more likely that these seniors will need outside help at some point in their lives.
Without family, seniors can only turn to friends, paid caregivers, or government-sponsored social services. Of course, paid caregivers are expensive, and government-sponsored programs present their own challenges, especially in light of recent budget cuts.
Unfortunately, friends are not currently given the same status as family members by a legal system that has always made the assumption of a nuclear family. There is, however, an emerging movement - the establishment of "friendship law" - that is responding to that. Friendship law would confer certain rights upon “designated friends” who play a significant caregiver role – including hospital visitation, tax breaks, and claims to an estate when no will has been established.
Visit our website for more information on Life Care Planning or to register for a free workshop to learn firsthand about long-term care and other planning options. You may also be interested in one of our free reports on Planning with Independent Trustees.