The Sandwich Generation



Makes unreasonable demands, wanting all of your time?
Has memory loss, is obsessed over ill health, but refuses treatment?
Has become depressed, manipulative, distrustful, critical or hostile?

Taking care of your aging parents can be a roller coaster of a ride, turning into a full time job.  Coordinating home help, figuring out insurance coverage, getting them to doctors or keeping an eye on them while they age in place, can seem overwhelming.  If you have a  full-time job or second to pay the bills, as well as taking care of the next generation, you get squeezed as thin as the turkey on a $5 sandwich.  Today's poor economy means many of us are putting in extra hours at work and too worried about being laid off to ask for family medical leave.  If it's not too late, planning upfront can ease the burden when one of your parents needs help.

Many adults find themselves part of what is called the "Sandwich Generation," caught between the demands of raising their own families and caring for their aging parents.  An estimated 10 million Americans are in this position, which not only pushes the limits of their time and money, but also challenges their marriages, friendships and health.

Are you feeling caught in the middle of two generations for which you feel equally responsible?  Baby Boomers are struggling under the enormous stress of being members of the "sandwich generation."  Two phenomena in particular contribute to this dilemma; the growing trend of couples waiting slightly longer to have children, and the fact that their then-older parents are living longer due to advances in healthcare.

If you find yourself in this position, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  Many others know the difficulties that arise when you are maintaining your own home, family, and career and simultaneously trying to ensure that Mom and Dad are safe, content and provided for.  I have first-hand knowledge.  My parents did not age gracefully and required intensive home-care before they died.  I was the primary caregiver even though I have siblings.  Aging in Place should be fun, but it can turn into an emotional and financial mess if you aren't prepared.  My parents did not have Long-Term Care Insurance and the round-the-clock aides for four and half years took its toll on their emotional well-being and finances. Like you, I know I did not bargain for this.  You may be concerned about your sanity, or you may just want more time to actually enjoy your family.

Your greatest asset as a member of the sandwich generation is information.  Open a dialogue with your parents and your spouse about your plans and expectations.  Communication and honesty are key here, so you may have to ask some difficult questions.  Are they capable of caring for their specific medical needs?  If your parents are still living on their own, ask them about their plans for the future.  Are they comfortable with the idea of aging in place, assisted living, or long-term nursing care.  Have they budgeted for this kind of care, or do they have Long Term Care Insurance?  If not you may want to talk to me about that.

As hard as it may be, you need to talk to your parents about legal and financial arrangements.  Do they have a will or health care proxy?  Is there a power of attorney in place if needed?  What kind of funeral do they want and have they made any arrangements?   You need to know where all their important papers are kept in the house, as well as, what bank their key and safety deposit box is located.  Are their Retirement Accounts up to date with beneficiaries?  Do you know their medical history and who their doctors are?  What medications are they taking and are they taking them correctly.  Are they paying for their supplemental medical insurances and all of their bills.

If Not You May Need To:

Sit down with them and help them write the checks.
Sign up your parents' pharmacy for online prescription refills.
Renew bus passes and pay for transportation services on line.
Set up automatic payments for regular bills from your parents' checking account or your own.
Deposit government payments directly into your parents' checking accounts.
Get a house cleaning service and simplify your parents' lawn care.
Arrange for a visiting nurse or part/full time aides.
Arrange with the supermarket to deliver food.
Make arrangements with the utility companies to let you know about appointments.
Arrange with a neighbor to keep an eye on your parents' house for unusual activity or no activity.

The list is endless......

Have you assumed the responsibilities of providing care to a loved one because of their inability to perform daily personal or household tasks as a result of aging, illness, or disability?

Ask Yourself These Questions:

Do I feel overwhelmed with the responsibility and stresses of being a Caregiver?
Do I feel torn or conflicted between my roles of Caregiver and that of spouse, parent, child, or friend?
Do I feel all of my energy is focused on others?
Do I wonder what happened to "me" time?  Do I feel that I have no time to take care of myself or do the things I enjoy?
Am I feeling guilty for being angry, frustrated, and stressed?
Do I feel alone in my situation?
Do I feel even though my siblings and I are adults, when it comes to taking care of my parents, we fall right back into the roles we had as children.

I suggest all caregivers buy Long-Term Care Insurance and consult an Elder Care Attorney to get a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy with advanced directors while everyone is healthy.

Celebrate the life that is left and stop focusing on the dying.  You are required to make sure your loved ones are safe, that they have good doctors, and the right medications, but you are not required to let caregiving destroy your life nor would they want that for you.

Caregiver stress can build up as the responsibilities builds.   Balancing between a career, family, and the role of caregiver can push you over the edge. If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, my job is to help you manage the responsibilities and stresses of being a Caregiver.  Please call me (516) 972-4463 for an appointment.

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