Easing the Squeeze of the Sandwich Generation
If I pay for my mom’s medication, will I still have enough to pay my daughter’s college tuition bill?
Will I be able to make my son’s Little League game after taking my dad to the doctor?
How do I find time to take care of myself?
For many Americans, these kinds of questions are the new normal. Nearly half of all adults in their 40s and 50s are sandwiched between caring for an aging parent while also caring for a young child or supporting a grown one. In fact, one in seven middle-aged adults now financially support both their parents and one or more children. The financial and emotional strain on the so-called “Sandwich Generation” is considerable, but there are ways to ease that squeeze and make the demands on you as a caregiver more manageable.
Have “The Talk” with your parents
While you may be prepared to pay for your children’s college education or your own retirement, you may not be in a position to take on the expense of caring for your parents. That’s why it’s so important to talk with them about the road ahead. However, according to a survey by Care.com, less than half of baby boomers have spoken with their parents about medical treatment, their wishes when they can no longer care for themselves, or how to pay for long-term care. In fact, the survey showed that the majority (54%) would rather have the “sex talk” with their kids than talk about senior care issues with their parents.
When is the right time to have “the talk”? Many senior care experts recommend using the 40/70 Rule,® which says that by the time you’re nearing age 40 and your parents are nearing 70, you should sit down with them to discuss expenses, financial choices, long-term care and their wishes down the road. By planning now, you can help prepare for what’s to come and ease the burden on yourself and other family members.
Make a Plan NOW
The 40/70 Rule is also a good rule of thumb for talking with an attorney or estate planner who specializes in elder care and long-term planning. They can discuss financial and healthcare options with you and help you and your parents create or update vital legal documents, including:
- A Will: To let you decide the who, what and when of how your estate will be divided when you die.
- A Trust: To help you manage property and assets and make sure they’re distributed according to your wishes after you’re gone.
- Power of Attorney: To allow you to designate someone to make legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
If your parents live beyond the age of 65, chances are they’re going to need some form of long-term care. As you might imagine, the costs for this are considerable. The cost for nursing homes, in particular, can be astronomical, coming in at $8,517 a month on average for a private room and $7,513 a month for semi-private. Planning ahead can help give you more choice and control over how to handle the cost of long-term care as well as where and how your parents receive services. Here’s where to start:
- Create a financial plan. Consider the kind of care you or your parents might need, such as in-home care, assisted living, or skilled nursing, and plan now to make the money last as long as possible.
Make the most of Medicaid. A solid Medicaid plan is essential for Medicaid planning to avoid being denied or – even worse – suffering a transfer penalty caused by improper planning.
Factor in all benefits. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to tapping available sources of income, including Veterans Administration benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Take Care of Yourself
The biggest danger for caregivers stuck in the middle is the risk of putting everyone else’s needs first and neglecting themselves. Caregivers often don’t get enough sleep, skip exercise, and don’t take the time to make healthy meals for themselves. So it’s not surprising that between 46% and 69% of caregivers are clinically depressed, according to Family Caregiver Alliance.
While the self-sacrifice may seem worth it, it takes a heavy toll, leaving you drained, prone to illness, and constantly stressed. Try to remember that it’s okay to take time for yourself. In fact, it’s better for your loved ones, because when you’re feeling well, you’re better able to care for them. Try to set aside some time each day to do something you enjoy, whether that’s taking a walk, streaming a movie, or indulging in some retail therapy. By taking care of yourself, the people you love are better cared for, too.
Know When to Ask for Help
If you or your parents need a hand sorting through estate planning and long-term care planning options, we’re here to help.