How to Make it in The Sandwich Generation
So you woke up at bit early today, now you are trying to figure out how you can get mom to her 3:30 pm doctor’s appointment and see your son’s school baseball game at 4:00 pm. Life today is active, especially for women aged 45 – 56 who care for both their parents and children. The label given to the 45 – 56 year olds is the “sandwich generation”.
An AARP report found that 44 percent of 45 – 56 year olds have at least one living parent and at least one child under age 21. In fact, 7 percent live in a household containing three generations, a parent or in-law, themselves, and their children. The time requirements of the person caught in the middle are obvious, but there may also be financial obligations. Helping a parent with the cost of groceries or medications is common, but loss of time at work is a real financial concern. The National Family Caregivers Association states that 55 percent of women today will spend more time caring for their mother than their mother spent caring for them as a child.
What does this all mean? Coordinating care for your children and parents simultaneously is not easy. What can you do to manage this? Three words of advice: Plan, Plan and Plan. Legal, financial, residential, mental and physical healthcare elements must be addressed prior to a crisis. A sandwich generation individual should guide their parent through these issues and the primary issue of safety, while being careful not to take all control away from a parent. Once again, it is important to start talking, making suggestions and guiding early, do not wait for a crisis.
Planning of the legal and financial components must be addressed prior to a crisis. If a person does not protect himself or herself by executing legal documents, a court can appoint a complete stranger to take over finances, medical and lifestyle (residential) decisions. All of the above components work together in this plan for the parent’s future security.
If possible, get your siblings involved in the planning process. Many times one “child” (if that) will accept this responsibility. Other siblings may choose to stand back and not get involved. It seems natural to think that their parents will never age or need assistance. It may be tough, but everyone’s involvement, if possible, is best.
Imagine a parent with Alzheimer’s. Unless that parent dies relatively soon, they will need assistance within the next several short years. If parents and adult children ignore this health condition and the eventual disease process, several things will happen. The parent will fall into a crisis. There will be a great deal of stress on all involved. The outcome is not likely to be as ideal as if there was a plan. Considering life style, the parent will need to accept whatever residential arrangements are available.
Money may be spent needlessly due to not being proactive and planning. The sandwich generation individual may miss work or at least be less productive because of the situation causing a high level of stress on all people involved.
Creating a plan for “Life’s Journey” could avoid much of the aforementioned stress. Early planning will provide comfort and allow that parent more control when the time comes when they need more assistance. In any case, be aware and account for the stress this process will take on the other parent, if living, and on the sandwich generation individual. A plan can get siblings more involved for the best outcome.
This is the first of a series of columns dedicated to help the sandwich generation individual. Look for columns in future issues of Healthy Cells magazine.