by Catherine Allen~At a time when your career is thriving and you are looking ahead to your own retirement, you may find yourself in the Sandwich Generation.The position of having to help your children with college expenses or starting out in the world while at the same time caring for your aging parents. Welcome to the “Sandwich Generation”–a group loosely defined as people in their 40s to 60s who are “sandwiched” between caring for children and aging parents.
The fact is, women are the ones who most often step into the caregiving role . If you find yourself torn between caregiving demands, here are some strategies to navigate this life phase.
The day-to-day demands of caring for both an aging parent and children can put a tremendous strain–both emotional and financial–on the primary caregiver.
The first thing to do is get yourself in the proper mindset. This life phase could last one or two years, or it could last many more. Don’t burn out too soon.
Encourage open communication with your family to figure out ways to share the financial, emotional, and time burdens. Hold regular meetings to discuss issues, set priorities, and delegate tasks. Here are some tips by Psychology Today.
It’s important for caregivers to get their own financial house in order. Ironically, at the very time you need to do this, other caregiving demands may get in the way. Here are some tips to get your finances on track:
•Establish a budget and stick to it.
•Keep your debt under control.
•Continue saving for retirement and don’t raid your accounts for your parents or your kids.
•Don’t quit your job before exploring other arrangements
Caring for your parents
•Talk to your parents about their financial resources. Do they have retirement income? Long-term care insurance? Locate all of their documents and accounts, and the financial professionals they work with.
•Get a current list of the medicines your parent takes and the doctors he or she sees.
•Have your parent establish a durable power of attorney, a health-care directive, and a will.
Meeting the needs of your children
Your children may be feeling the effect of your situation more than you think, especially if they are teenagers. Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to balance your family’s needs:
•Explain what changes may come about as you begin caring for your parent. Talk honestly about the pros and cons of having a grandparent in the house, and be sympathetic and supportive of your children (and your spouse) as they try to adjust.
•Discuss college plans. Encourage realistic expectations about the college they may be able to attend.
•Teach your kids how to spend wisely and set financial priorities.
•Try to build in some special time with your children doing an activity they enjoy.
•If you have “boomerang children” who’ve returned home, make sure to share your expectations with them, too. Expect help with chores, occasional simple caregiving, and a financial contribution to monthly household expenses.
Considering your needs
This stage of your life could last many years, or just a few. As much as you can, sleep well, eat nutritiously, and exercise–all things that will increase your ability to cope. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself when you need it, whether it’s a couple of hours holed up with a book or out to the movies, or a longer weekend getaway. When you put your own needs first occasionally and look after yourself, you’ll be in a better position to care for those around you.