Balancing Children’s and Senior Parents’ Needs is Temporary, Not Permanent
The term “sandwich generation” doesn’t refer to people born within a certain time period, like the terms “baby boomers” or “generation X” do. Rather, it refers to people who are in a certain stage of life: helping their children develop and get an education while also caring for senior parents with complex care needs. The good news, which is easy for many in the sandwich generation to forget, is that this situation is not indefinite! As sad as it is to think about, your elderly parents will pass away, and your children will finish college and move away from home. This understanding should influence what you do before and during the “sandwich generation” phase of life.
Before Getting Sandwiched In
Perhaps the best thing you can do about handling your many responsibilities is making a plan for them ahead of time. Legal, financial, and healthcare decisions about seniors’ lives are complicated and require lots of research. If you can see that your parents will need much more care within the next few years due to decreasing health or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, now is the time to think about issues like bank account management, power of attorney, and paying for care. Be sure to get the entire family involved in the planning process, and consider hiring a geriatric care manager to guide you along the way.
Making Long-Term Decisions
One of the decisions that “sandwich generation” members struggle is whether to devote funds to children’s college education or their own retirement savings. Certainly giving our children freedom from student debt is an incredible gift, but in many cases it only sets them up for the same situation that we find ourselves in—shouldering the financial burden for retired parents! If we are able to save enough money for a comfortable retirement and purchase long-term care insurance, we will break the cycle and save our children the challenges of the “sandwich generation.”
Needless to say, there are many of us who are in the thick of juggling the needs of children and senior parents, and we did not have the luxury of making detailed plans ahead of time. A stroke or accidental injury can make even an otherwise healthy, active senior suddenly dependent on family for care. In such a case, your family may well need some “breathing room” while you arrange a long-term plan for rotating family caregivers, paying for health needs, and hiring professional caregiving services to supplement what the family is capable of doing. If you need someone to simply sit with a handicapped senior parent for a few hours each morning, or if it’s time for a much-needed vacation, we hope you will give us a call.
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