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Like me, my friend Vince is a single gay man in his 60s. Prior to his father’s recent death, I witnessed how Vince played crucial roles: caregiver, financial planner, good son. My siblings and I played the same roles with my folks before they died.
Vince and I would talk about who would provide care when our time came. Neither of us has kids or close family nearby. As much as I don’t like to be a stereotype, my life reflects the data: LGBTQ people are twice as likely to be single and live alone as our straight counterparts, and four times as likely to be childless.
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I never expected life to be this way. But who does? In my late 40s, I met the man I’d fall in love with, then legally marry. We often talked about how we’d be the “long-term care solution” for each other. And then we divorced. But the sad truth is that hands-on care from a spouse is only available to the first one to get sick; the survivor is as alone as a single person. That’s where kids typically come in.
I joke with my nieces, who are in their 20s, that my birthday presents to them as a “guncle” (gay uncle) have been down payments on my future care. But I’d never force that onto them — at least I hope not.
Since my divorce at age 60, I’ve been “lucky.” I’ve had only three medical moments that required having a companion present. Fortunately, I found willing friends to help me for these one-day needs. Still, I felt uncomfortable asking for assistance. What if I got really sick — like, for a long time?
I saw the difficulties my parents faced when new health aides came into their home. Sometimes Mom and Dad weren’t respected. Sometimes the aides didn’t even show up. We kids were always there to fix it. So I worry about managing my own care. And if I need in-home help, will I be comfortable acknowledging my sexual identity to a stranger who might have “issues”?