Fort Wayne, IN - July marks National Sandwich Generation Month in the United States. The observance honors a generation of people sandwiched between caring for their young children and aging parents at the same time.
Approximately 1 in 8 Americans between ages 40-60 face the daily challenges of being a ‘Sandwich Generation Kid'. Common struggles include having to pay for mom or dad's long-term care while providing for their own family, shielding mom or dad's assets from nursing home facilities and cleaning up financial or legal messes in the absence of proper planning.
“People don't like to think about getting old or death, so many families avoid talking about long-term care or incapacity planning until a medical crisis occurs,” says Fort Wayne elder law attorney and Sandwich Generation advocate, April Grunden. “Because of this, Sandwichers are often left with thousands of dollars of unnecessary expenses and years of headaches that could have been avoided simply by planning ahead,” she adds.
So what can members of the sandwich generation do to better prepare for the challenges of caring for young children and aging parents alike? April recommends the following:
- Have the tough conversations with mom or dad about their wishes now while they are still active and in good health. Find out what type of long-term care they would want (or never want) in the event of a healthcare crisis, and be sure to legally document their preferences.
- Find out what type of estate planning documents your parents have in place (i.e. will, trust, power of attorney) while they still have mental capacity to update them or make changes. If their medical directives were created pre-HIPPA, have them reviewed by an attorney to make sure they still apply. You should also know the location, and how access, any safety deposit boxes or bank accounts should the unthinkable happen.
- Sit down with your parents every 2-3 years to review their estate plan. Make sure mom or dad's wishes are the same and that they still approve of the people they chose to make important end-of-life medical or financial decisions on their behalf.
- Consider placing all of mom or dad's assets into the right kind of trust so they stay protected and out of the equation if your parents ever need to apply for Medicaid benefits or go into a nursing home.
- If your parents have named you in any legal ‘helper' roles, make sure you understand exactly what's expected of you, where the documents giving you these rights are and how to properly use them before a crisis strikes.
“I can't stress enough the importance of planning early, and reviewing this plan often, when balancing the role of caring for aging parents and young children at the same time. Not only will this prevent last minute scrambling, but it will help you protect your parent's wishes, assets and your sanity in the process,” says Grunden.