There are many layers to the “sandwich” generation, those with the honor of caring for parents at the same time most are also dedicated to children. Taking a big bite out of the opportunity – yes, the opportunity, rather than obligation – can make it an easier bite to swallow.
by Deb Silverthorn
While many boomers are packing up children for weekend sleepaways and college life at the same time they’re packing up their parents’ homes and deciding “what’s next,” the process needn’t be impossible. The same way researching camps, sports programs, and colleges for the offspring is done with intention, time, and spirit, the same should be given for those who raised us who are now in need of attention.
“No matter what the age of your parents, now is the time to talk about their future, and it’s important to have regular conversations,” said Joyce Logan, founder of Ruby Care Senior Living Advisors. “Make it your apparent concern rather than that of your parents.”
For Logan, senior support didn’t come naturally, but in caring for the original Ruby, her mother-in-law, she came to understand the care, concern, and needs of the senior community. It was after the passing of Ruby’s husband that Joyce and her husband tried recommending she move closer – a conversation echoed in many families. Ruby had an idea of what “senior living” meant and it wasn’t a picture she relished. After visiting a number of facilities over a couple of years, Ruby realized there was variety, there was programming, there were options – and those options were key.
“It’s important not just to have the conversations but to do so before you are in the moment,” said Logan, who with Ruby Care Partner Patty Williams, helps families make their way through the maze of senior housing options. Their team also connects clients to a myriad of health care providers. “Ninety percent of families making the decisions are in crisis, and that isn’t the time for thinking clearly.”
For David Stanley, owner of Custom Caregivers, a full service personal care company, providing eldercare in private homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities, the need for encouragement is also key. “The timing of broaching the subject of moving or support matters and it’s imperative you make it clear you want to help assist with impending challenges,” said Stanley. “It’s not always about the adult children who ‘know best,’ but about recognizing how difficult the loss of independence can be, driving, personal business, cooking – all of it. It’s an invasion of space and it’s not easy for most of us.”
Part of making the transitional season easier, comes with some not-so-easy conversations. Logan, Stanley, and estate planning, business, and social security attorney Colin Smith all agree about the value – and critical need – for power of attorney decisions, for both medical and durable (business) needs.
“Rather than asking the parent ‘what do you want,’ or ‘who do you want to handle your business,’ – sometimes daunting and awkward questions, pose the discussion otherwise,” said Smith. “It’s critical to deal with these issues before the challenges of lost mental capacity come into play. Then, it’s a real problem.”
While power of attorney filings are usually associated with seniors, they are just as important for our students ages 18 and over and for those of us in the generation in-between. If an unforeseen accident happens to your child, just as in the case of our seniors, without the proper paperwork in place – providing for someone to make health care decisions, and the ability to manage money – a court order might be needed in order for anyone to act on the person’s behalf.
Taking care of your own business – as long as one is of sound mind is never too soon, and then spark the conversation by saying “I just set up my future for the kids, realizing how important it is, and I’m curious about where you’ve filed yours in case it’s ever needed.” If they’ve made the arrangements, few won’t want you to know, and if they haven’t – hopefully that’s the kickstart they need.
“Our seniors have worked over decades for their ‘fortunes’ and it’s worth the time, money, and energy to protect that,” said Smith, suggesting that a quick online POA isn’t likely to way to go. “It’s important while each of us are of sound mind to seek council or be sure to otherwise take the appropriate measures to let our families know our wishes.”
It’s difficult to be making the kids’ sandwiches – while sometimes feeling like your parents want to eat you up for your involvement, but remember – one bite at a time, chew well, and take it all in.