Haims: Navigating the ‘Sandwich Generation,’ caring for aging parents and your own (column)
Unlike baby boomer, gen-X or millennial, the “Sandwich Generation” doesn’t accurately define an age group. Rather, sandwich generation is more of a plight affecting a cohort of people than a phrase or word describing a generation defined by age(s).
“Sandwich generation is most commonly understood to identify adult children who are caring for aging parents in addition to their own young children. Depending upon where you look for a definition, people of the Sandwich Generation are presumed to be between their mid-30s and early-50s.
People of the sandwich generation can be almost any age. Anyone challenged by the pressures of managing their time, finances and emotions while caring for an aging loved one in addition to their own children and even grandchildren, are part of the sandwich generation.
The sandwich generation is under pressure from multiple sides. Between trying to build and attain their own economic stability, managing a relationship, raising a family and assisting their aging loved ones, pressures may be daunting.
The demographics of our world are ever-changing. Due in part to education and improvements in public health, medical advances and lifestyle changes, people are living longer today than ever before. In the 1940s, the average lifespan was about 63 years. Thirty years later, in the 1970s, the average lifespan increased almost 30 years to 71 years of age. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that the average lifespan in the U.S. is almost 79 years.
On a positive note, longer lifespans may allow people more time to spend with their spouse, family and friends. Unfortunately, the down side may come with functional limitations, disability, emotional and economic factors.
The financial burden on this generation is significant. Many of our aging loved ones are living far longer than they had anticipated and few have the ability to pay for their care. In many cases, the older generation rely on their family for unpaid caregiving.
The burdens of medical costs, helping with daily activities, overseeing supervision, legal considerations and other concerns can take a physical and emotional toll as well as ongoing financial concerns. In order to address such concerns, we must be proactive and not reactive.
Here are some suggestions to consider:
Help financially dependent adult children get started in the world with job tips, advice, etc. If they live in their own place, consider the cost savings of moving them back into your home.
Consider having aging parents move into your home to curb expenses.
Think about providing your parents with part time in-home senior care, as even a few hours of outside assistance can be a lifesaver when it comes to relieving caregiver stress.
Whomever you’re responsible for financially, set boundaries with each party by agreeing to provide them with a set amount of support each month or year for predetermined expenses.
Tax benefits for the elderly and for children of a certain age enrolled in higher education often qualify for tax benefits and breaks. Medical expense claims can also reduce federal tax liability.
Keep the doors of communication open at all times concerning expectations and emotions of family members, their feelings and attempt to resolve any noted issues quickly to keep stress levels low all around.
The most vital aspect of being a successful sandwich generation caregiver: Be kind to yourself. Self-care is essential, yet can be easily neglected when your time is divided between navigating all of your family member’s needs. Be sure to eat right, take plenty of down time to do the things you enjoy, get ample sleep, lots of laughs and never hesitate to ask for help when necessary. There are support groups, assisted living options and professional counseling that can help when all resources are exhausted.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.
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