American’s are living longer, isn’t that good news? Absolutely! According to the Journal of Financial Service Professionals nearly 50% of people 55 and older have a living parent. That is a dramatic increase from just 20 years ago when only 4-6% were that lucky. The term sandwich generation has been coined to describe those in their 50-60’s with elderly parents who need care, and, children who also need some level of care. The peanut-butter in the middle glues the family together, but, sometimes peanut-butter might feel a bit squished
Our oldest generation staying with us long into their 70’s is an asset in many ways. There are so many great grand children hearing first hand accounts of how school was up hill both ways and how much it used to snow. There are challenges too, often born by the 55 crowd, but there isn’t a challenge that can’t be conquered with style and grace, planning and humor.
Friend and advocate – They will always be your parent, but, they need you to listen like a friend and act on their behalf. This means, for example, going to doctors appointments so two sets of ears hear the doctors orders and if going with them is not possible reach out to the doctor for a phone update. As with any friendship there will be bumps but a true friend, advocate (and child) will stick like glue (or peanut-butter)
Insurance – Look into long term care insurance with (or for) your parent and while you are at it, look for yourself too. As you watch what is going on with your parent do what you can to learn from it. There are many types of long term care insurance, something for most budgets.
Finance – There may come a time when you need to take over the finances. Discuss budgets and desires and make sure your parent does not feel like they have been removed. This might seem like quite a chore but it is far less work then figuring out how to get the electric on again or insurance premiums repaid that were missed by a forgetful senior.
Help – Many in the middle of the sandwich feel they have to do it alone. There are plenty of companies out there, Boca home care to name one, that provide services to help keep your parent independent in their own home. If you are far away this is almost a necessity. Most of the professional care companies can also help navigate the various assistance programs, and, let you know if it is time for your parent to think about assisted care living. Trust the experts to help you so you still get to be the kid sometimes and not always the ‘bad guy’.
Communicate – with your spouse, siblings and family so everyone knows what is going on. Call a family meeting with an agenda and run it like a business if you have to but make sure that everything is discussed rationally and calmly and that the path is clear, you don’t need drama on top of it all.
Me time – you are no good if you burn out. Know when to take a break, they all do need you but they don’t need you 24/7.
Humor – might need to be top of the list for anyone who finds them selves caring for an elderly parent. It is far better to laugh then cry so if there is a tense moment try to see the light side.
The person who raised you now needs you. Learn from the experience so you can plan for your 80’s, and, enjoy as much of your parent as possible; make sure your kids spend time with them too because nothing is forever.