These days, there is a name for every generation: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and each generation is loosely defined by a few key characteristics that group them together. You may have heard the term “Sandwich Generation” used lately, but what does it mean and are you a member?
The term “Sandwich Generation” is used to describe middle-aged Americans who are sandwiched between two roles: caregiver for aging parents and supporter for children or young adults. Nearly half of Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 fall within this category: they have at least one living parent, aged 65 or older, and they are either raising young children or have young adult children who still require some kind of support.
For anyone within the Sandwich Generation, it can be difficult being pulled in so many directions, and the burdens compound as lifespans increase for older Americans and young people are financially and emotionally reliant on their parents for longer (often into their thirties). So, if you find yourself as a member of the Sandwich Generation, what can you do about it?
Get Clear on Your Parents' Needs
As our parents age, we often find ourselves in the position of providing care, support, and assistance more and more. Aging parents need more than a visit at holidays: they often require financial and emotional support, as well as help handling their affairs, including doctor's appointments, shopping, home maintenance, and driving. However, this transition rarely happens smoothly or quickly. Instead, the process of caring for a parent occurs over time, with awkward and painful moments along the way.
Help Your Parents Get a Plan in Place that Avoids Future Costs, Time, and Stress
Luckily, there are ways to ease the process if you are aware and prepared. First, begin having financial conversations with your parents. Before it becomes necessary for you to intervene in their financial or medical affairs, make sure that you know your parent(s)' financial position and medical preferences.
If your parents have an estate plan, go over it with them and make sure everything is up to date, accurate, and clear. A comprehensive estate plan for aging adults should include a will, a Power of Attorney, an Advance Healthcare Directive, and a probate-avoidance trust. If they have not yet taken steps to get these documents in place, initiate the conversation with them. A comprehensive estate plan will not only ease stress that may arise from caring for aging parents, but it can drastically reduce the time, money, and worry spent in taking care of their affairs after they are gone.
Although this process can be uncomfortable at the outset, it will help ease tensions and anxiety down the road because you will be prepared to address issues in the way your parent would prefer. Not only will a clear plan ensure that your parents get what they want, it will also prevent family confusion and conflict in the future.
Establish Boundaries with Your Young Adults
Because of the job market, cost of education, and the trend toward delaying starting a family, young adults are staying connected to their parents for longer. Often, parents continue to provide financial and emotional support throughout college and into young adulthood. While providing support and guidance to your children can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be a drain on your financial and emotional wellbeing. Especially if you are simultaneously managing care for your elder parents, it is important to be honest and open with the young people in your life. Set boundaries and explain your positions to your children. Remember that you can't be everything to everyone, and it is ok to say no when you need to.
Check in with Yourself
The most important piece of advice we can give is to be honest with yourself. Caring for aging parents and young adults is an incredibly stressful position. If you don't care for yourself during this time, this stress can seriously damage your health, career, and relationships. Pay attention to your wellness and remember that you cannot do it all.
Make sure that you are caring for your own needs first. Incorporate rest into your routine so that you are well enough to handle whatever comes your way. Take the time to identify your stressors and the ways you deal with stress. Once you can see where your stress is coming from, look for healthy methods to manage stress including exercise, rest, and taking time for things that you enjoy.
Don't Try to Go it Alone
Get help! Take the time to find good care for your aging parents. A good caregiver will make all the difference to your stress levels. Learn about your parents' needs and choose someone to assist in their care that you can trust and rely upon.
Most importantly, remember that you are human. Everything cannot rely on you. Be kind to yourself and make sure that you have a plan in place in case you are unable to manage it all. If you should become ill or incapacitated, who will provide for those who rely upon you? Talk to an experienced and compassionate estate planning attorney who can help you create a strategy that will put your mind at ease and create an action plan that provides for your loved ones.
There is no one right way to handle your position in the Sandwich Generation. Every relationship and situation is different. The best thing you can do is take it slow and make a plan. Talk to the experienced estate planning attorney at The Tyra Law Firm. We know life can be complicated, and we are here to help you get organized and take control. Feel free to give us a call at (301) 315-0811 to get started.