The Sandwich Generation
Sometimes even getting up before the alarm goes off doesn’t alleviate the busyness of the day and the stress that goes with it. Family obligations, like taking Mom to a 3:30 doctor’s appointment and seeing a teen’s school baseball game at 4:00 make for a challenging afternoon. Life is busy, and even the best pre-planning doesn’t always work out efficiently. Women, ages 45 to 60 who care for both parents and children, especially feel the time crunch. The “sandwich generation” is the phrase coined for such women and men, but more typically women, involved in such a situation.
A recent AARP report says some 44% of 45 to 56-year-olds have at least one parent and at least one child under age 21 for which they are responsible. Seven percent of that same age group live in a household with three generations: a parent or in-law, children, and themselves. The time requirements of the person “sandwiched” in the middle, thus the expression “sandwich generation,” are obvious, but there may also be financial obligations. Helping a parent with the cost of groceries or medications is becoming common, as is helping a parent with appointments, tasks, and other caregiving concerns. Loss of time at work to help with caregiving is a financial concern. The National Family Caregivers Association states that 55% of women today will spend more time caring for their mother than their mother spent in caring for them as a child.
Coordinating care for children and parents or parents simultaneously is not simple. Proper planning is imperative. Legal, financial, residential, safety, and healthcare concerns must be addressed prior to a crisis. Planning requires a delicate balance of tact, encouragement, information, and informed suggestions. It is also important to make certain the parent does not feel as if they have no control over their situation or the decisions being made.
Planning of legal and financial components must be addressed prior to a crisis. Without adequate proper legal documents, a court can appoint someone unknown to the parent or family to be in charge of finances, medical, and lifestyle (residential) decisions.
It’s also important to have involvement from all the adult children concerning matters for their parent(s). It’s difficult to think about parents aging and needing assistance, but it’s necessary to make advanced arrangements.
Consider a parent with Alzheimer’s. Unless that parent dies relatively soon after diagnosis, the person will need assistance in the beginning and quite likely full-time care towards the end of his or her life. If parents and adult children ignore this health condition with its continual deterioration of the parent’s mind and body, several unfortunate things can happen. The parent will likely have a crisis situation that will involve considerable stress and sadness for all concerned. The outcome is much likely to be worse if there are no plans already in place. The parent may need to accept whatever accommodations for residence are available on short notice. Additional costs may be incurred to provide a safe place to live and any other hands-on care the parent may need. The costs may be less if those arranging for such care are proactive. The adult child or children making such arrangements may miss work or find it necessary to rearrange schedules to accommodate the parent’s needs. All of this leads to a much higher stress level, often resulting in difficult decision-making.
Early planning for “Life’s Journey” could avoid some of the stress and struggle. Working out details before the crisis situation occurs can allow that parent more input into solutions for the time when he or she needs more assistance. It’s imperative to recognize certain situations are difficult in themselves, and the difficulty is compounded if decisions must be made without any prior planning.