“The sandwich generation” is the term given to adults who are raising children and simultaneously caring for elderly or infirm parents. Your children are one piece of “bread,” your parents are the other piece of “bread,” and you are “sandwiched” into the middle.
Caring for parents at the same time as you care for your children, your spouse, and your job is exhausting and will stretch every resource you have. And what about caring for yourself? Not surprisingly, most sandwich generation caregivers let self-care fall to the bottom of the priorities list which may impair your ability to care for others.
If you are physically or financially taking care of your parents then it is important to be prepared. Here are several tips for sandwich generation caregivers.
- Have an open conversation with your parents about their estate plans. If you will be providing physical or financial care for your parents then it is important for you to accurately assess the situation. If your parents have completed their estate plans, it is important to review those documents and understand who has legal authority over your parents’ finances and health care decisions if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. If your parents do not have current estate plans, it is time for them to meet with an estate planning attorney to get everything in order.
- Hold an all-family meeting regarding your parents. Involve your parents and your siblings in a detailed conversation about the present and future. If you can, make joint decisions about issues like who can physically care for your parents, who can contribute financially and how much. Have an open conversation about responsibilities and expectations.
- Hold another all-family meeting with your children and your parents. If you are taking on additional responsibilities for your parents’ care talk about this honestly with your children. Involve your parents in the conversation as well. Talk – in an age-appropriate way – about the changes that your children will experience, both positive and challenging.
- Prioritize privacy. With multiple family members living under one roof, privacy – for children, parents, and grandparents – is a must. If it is not be feasible for every family member to have his or her own room, then find other ways to give everyone some guaranteed privacy. “The living room is just for Grandma and Grandpa after dinner.” “Our teenage daughter gets the downstairs bathroom for as long as she needs in the mornings.”
- Make family plans. There are joys associated with having three generations under one roof. Make the effort to get everyone together for outings and meals. Perhaps each generation can choose an outing once a month.
- Make a financial plan, and don’t forget yourself. Are your children headed to college? Are you hoping to move your parents into an assisted living facility? How does your retirement fund look? If you are caring for your parents, your financial plan will almost certainly have to be revised. Don’t leave yourself and your spouse out of the equation. Make sure to set aside some funds for your own retirement while saving for college and elder health care.
- Revise your estate plan documents as necessary. If you had named your parents guardians of your children in case of your death, you may need to find other guardians. You may need to set up trusts for your parents as well as for your children. If your parent was your power of attorney, you may have to designate a different person to act on your behalf.
- Seek out and accept help. Help for the elderly is well organized in the United States. Here are a few governmental and nonprofit resources:
- www.benefitscheckup.org – Hosted by the National Council on Aging, this website is a one-stop shop for determining which federal, state and local benefits your parents may qualify for
- www.eldercare.gov – Sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging
- www.aginglifecare.org — Formerly National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
- www.nadsa.org – National Adult Day Services Association
- Request a free copy of our e-book. For more tips and support, read our e-book Surviving The ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How To Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care….Without Losing Your Money—Or Your Mind!