Are You Caught in the Middle?
Many clients today are caught in the “sandwich generation” where they are caring for elderly parents as well as their children. An important thing for these caregivers to remember is to care for themselves! As in the safety discussion on an airplane, you put on your own oxygen mask first. You can’t help anyone else when you don’t have enough oxygen yourself.
Financially, this means that you need to prioritize your retirement and make sure that you have a plan in place for the 25-30 years you might well live in retirement without significant salary deposits. This may result in funding less than 100% of your child’s education or sending them to less expensive public universities. Many clients find their children prioritize education more when they have “skin in the game” in the form of paying some portion of their college costs. In addition, there is no guarantee that your children will be able to help you in retirement, either financially or physically, if spending on their education results in underfunded retirement savings for you. It’s generally a good idea to discuss your finances (at a high level) with your children so they understand why you are making the decisions that you do. It also helps them to be responsible for their own finances.
For your parents, it may take some research on your part, but most communities have senior centers or senior experts who can help you make the most of community resources. Don’t be afraid to explore these options on behalf of your parents.
It is often difficult to have frank discussions with your parents about end of life care and how they want their finances handled, but these conversations can make things easier for all of you in the long run. Having your own estate plan in order may make it easier to approach the subject with them. Your parents’ powers of attorney and advance health care directives ideally should be signed long before they are needed, while they’re still competent to sign legal documents.
It is not possible for one person to consistently provide 24-hour care, so if your loved one needs that, you’ll likely need to explore teams of in-home caregivers or a facility that can meet your parent’s needs in a respectful and safe manner. Many communities offer caregiver relief, where someone else can take over for a short period of time to give you a break to rest and recharge. If you have relatives that can relieve you – siblings and/or adult children - ask for their help, in specific ways, so they understand what is expected of them. Asking for help when you need it will ensure your continued good health as well as your ability to continue to take care of your family.