The Sandwich Generation is a completely unique group in which membership feels sudden and forced. One day you are just a regular 40something juggling a partner, kids, friends and work and the next a completely new element is thrown into the mix – elderly parents. Whereas for many years your parents have been completely independent, comprising a small part of your life, all of a sudden that changes. Your parents start needing you in a way they never have before. And they hate it. And you have no idea how to respond.So rather than tread muddy waters and get stuck, this series of articles is intended to help the escalating percentage of Americans who find themselves part of this group. An AARP report found that 44 percent of 45-55 year olds had both at least one living parent and one child under 21 years old.
Emma Martin introduces Part 1 of a series of help articles specifically dealing with the issues of the Sandwich Generation. Caring for our parents & still parents ourselves.
Talk to Your Parents:
Talk Before the Crisis Hits.
When your parents are in good health, sit them down and talk to them. First ask them what kind of care they believe would be most suitable for them and spell out the options:
- Live in caretaker
- Daily caretaker
- Senior home
- Multigenerational housing The main issue with the elderly is independence. It’s important to figure out – for them – the best way to maintain a level of independence.
Get a Budget in Place.
Once your parents have clarified their living preference, start looking at their finances to see which is most viable. Also, make sure their current budget is viable, or, if they don’t have one, sit down and create one with them. If this proves too challenging, bring in an outsider like a social worker or day care center employee to remove any familial pressure. For example, if they say they would prefer a senior home but it ends up that just one of them is there and the other one stays at home, will that be financially viable and if so, for how many years? Do they have to sell their home (if they rent, how would they pay for it)? Are they entitled to any government help? What commitment can Medicaid make to them? This webpage is a good starting point.
Encourage Your Kids to Visit and Hang Out!Inclusion seems to be today’s buzzword. But it is often just used for youngsters with special needs and kids who do not quite fit into “the system,” etc. And this is a good thing and should be encouraged. But why not extend this treatment to the elderly? We know that around 25-50% of all Americans aged 85 and over are frail. So then if we know this, why can’t it feel like a normal part of society? Why is there so much shame within the elderly of getting old and doing what 25-50% of elderly are doing? Like not being in control of faculties; not being able to do what we were doing 5 years before, etc. There needs to be a change in perception by society toward acceptance and inclusion of the elderly. And as a member of the sandwich generation, we can play a huge part in this.
In conclusion: once you have accepted that you are a member of the sandwich generation, embrace it and open the discussion with your parents as well as your children.
In Part II we will discuss the caregiver taking care of themselves.