Two weeks ago I introduced you to your new generation. No longer are we Millennials, Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. We are now united in our responsibilities towards both our parents and kids at the same time. We are the Sandwich Generation. And being a part of this generation can be pretty rough.
It can be financially, emotionally, and physically draining to have your kids and parents both depending on you. Luckily, there are some things that you can do to ease the burden. Last week, we saw how understanding your options, setting clear expectations and boundaries, and making a plan can look when it comes to college-bound kids. Now let’s see how those same principles apply to your parents:
Understand Your Options
Once you start looking, it’s amazing how many options there are out there for senior citizens. And I’m not just talking about 20% off at JoAnn Fabric on Wednesdays.
If you’re trying to figure out what financial options your parents have, you should start by reviewing their insurance policies and pensions. They may have an unnecessary insurance policy that can be cashed out or the option to add a long-term care rider.
Then, find out about what kind of help the community offers. There are a lot of organizations dedicated to helping the elderly. Research local faith-based organizations and disease-based organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
The government also has a lot of programs for the elderly. You can find local government agencies through the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging’s website. Chances are, you can find all kinds of free or low-cost services for your parents, like meal delivery, transportation, respite care, and legal help. If anything, they can always get a discount at Applebee’s.
Set Clear Expectations And Boundaries
This can be a lot harder with your parents than it was with your kids. Your kids are used to you bossing them around and telling them how things are. With your parents, it’s a little different. You have to reverse roles to some extent and it doesn’t always go over well. It can be really hard to set healthy boundaries with parents, but it’s vital to maintaining good relationships.
What do your parents expect from you and what are you prepared to do for them? That’s the big question that needs to be brought out into the open and answered.
Does your mother plan on moving in with you and having your wife care for her? How does your wife feel about that?
Will you visit your parents in their home on a daily basis and maintain it when they are no longer able to? It may be difficult to tell a parent that they will end up in a nursing home, but can you physically and financially maintain two households without burning out or going broke (or both)?
In order to set proper expectations, your parents will need to share their financial information with you. This can be very, very difficult. However, if you’re going to be helping them, you need to know what you have to work with.
And this discussion should really happen sooner, rather than later. Many scam artists and unscrupulous financial product salesmen prey on the elderly. Cognitive decline can also start way before you really begin to recognize it. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Don’t worry, just because they share their financial information with you doesn’t mean you need to take things over right away or anything. You just need to know what accounts they have, where the important information is, and what kind of lifestyle they can afford to maintain and for how long. Right now you just need the knowledge so you know what to prepare for.
Make A Plan (Or Two Or Three)
Speaking of preparing, once you’ve got everything out in the open and everyone is on the same page, it’s time to start planning. So much can happen as your parents age. Sit down with them and discuss how you will handle different possible situations. Be clear on how much care you are willing to provide personally and how much you can realistically afford to help them financially if needed. It’s important to maintain a balance between compassion and common sense, without letting emotions distort things.
Make a plan for things such as:
- Inability to live independently
- Dad dying first
- Mom dying first
- When to sell the family house
- Funeral arrangements
On the legal side of things, you need to make sure that your parents have a will, advanced directive, power of attorney, and all necessary insurance. These things are easy to overlook but can make a huge difference in the amount of time and money it will take to get things done in the future.
You need to be proactive. It’s a hard discussion to have, but you’ll only be able to fulfill your parents’ wishes if you actually know what those wishes are. Caring for an elderly parent or cleaning up an unorganized estate can take over your life. Be preemptive, take some time to prepare for it, and you’ll be glad you did.
So many of us are finding ourselves in the Sandwich Generation these days. These should be exciting times for making memories and cherishing relationships, not emotionally exhausting and financially draining. Take some time to prepare yourself, your kids, and your parents to navigate this season, and they could be some of the best years of your life!