Are You A Sandwich Generationer?

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Tips For Taking Care of Elderly Parents

So, you woke up at bit early today and now you are trying to figure out how to get your mom to her 3:30 pm doctor’s appointment and see your son’s school baseball game at 4:00. Life today is hectic, especially for women aged 45-60 who care for both their parents and their children.

The label given to the 45-60-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 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. 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.

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 generationer should guide their parents through these issues, as well as the primary issue of safety, while being careful not to take all control away from them. It is important to start talking, making suggestions and guiding early; do not wait for a crisis.

Planning the legal and financial components of care must be addressed prior to a crisis. All of these components work together in a plan for the parent’s future security. If a person does not protect himself or herself by executing legal documents, it’s possible that a court could appoint a complete stranger to take over financial, medical and lifestyle (residential) decisions.

For example, if one parent has moderate to advanced dementia and wants to sell the family home, it may not be possible if they are both on the deed; they may need a financial power of attorney or a guardian. That’s why early planning and legal advice may prevent problems and even save money in the long run.

Therefore, if possible, get your siblings involved in the planning process. Many times one “child” will accept this responsibility. Other siblings may choose to stand back and not get involved. It may be tough, but everyone’s involvement, if possible, is best. A plan can get siblings more involved for the best outcome.

Imagine a parent with Alzheimer’s. Eventually—maybe sooner than later—that parent will need assistance. If parents and adult children ignore this condition and the disease progresses, several things can happen: The parent may fall into crisis, which will place a great deal of stress on all involved. The outcome is not likely to be as ideal without a plan. The parent may have to accept whatever residential arrangements are available on short notice. Money may be spent needlessly due to failure to plan ahead. The sandwich generationer may miss work or be less productive at work because the situation causes a high level of stress.

Creating a plan for “Life’s Journey” could avoid much of this stress. Early planning will provide comfort and allow that parent more control if 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 and on the sandwich generationer.

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Steven A. Buttice is the president of Medical Reimbursement & Management Services, Inc., a firm specializing in issues affecting seniors, including seminars and consultation on Medicare Plans, Long Term Care and other types of insurance, claims issues, and sales/service of insurance products since 1984.

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