The Sandwich Generation

Many of us  are finding ourselves part of the "Sandwich Generation", which is both raising children and providing care for our aging parents. While this may offer the opportunity to "give back" to those who raised us, it also poses unique and sometimes stressful problems. With our children, there is a certain amount of control as the role of parent assumes physical, financial, and emotional power over children. While my child may not want to go to a doctor; as a parent, I can get her or him to comply with my wishes because I am the parent. If I want my father or mother to see a doctor, as the adult child I can ask, beg, or insist; but my power to make it happen is limited. Emotionally, it is difficult to "force" a parent to comply with our wishes by virtue of a lifetime of being in the child role. With more than 23 million households providing care for someone age 50 or older, the "Sandwich Generation" is struggling to care for parents who are living longer and may be ill. With parents living longer than ever before, adult children may also be faced with helping their parents handle physical and mental illnesses.

As adult children, it is hard to take on the role of "decision maker" about one or more parent's health care, finances, living situations, or other issues. Becoming involved in our parent's finances, medical decisions, and daily business may seem intrusive. This "role reversal" may be accompanied by some grief over the loss of that parent as an advisor or a mentor. Then, there may be several issues that are discovered that could have been avoided, if only we had inquired sooner. Just as our parents looked after our best interests, we look after the best interest of our own children and we must do the same for our parents as they age. This role reversal is awkward for the parent as well as for the adult child. These issues are difficult because they remind us of the mortality of our parents. Here are some ideas which may help:

  1. Discuss caregiving issues with parents before the need arises. These discussions can help guide decision making in the future.
  2. Communicate with parents about their preferences, taking into account realistic circumstances.
  3. Have your parent(s) strongly consider having a Living Will, Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and /or Power of Attorney for Finances.
  4. Review wills and living wills to include their philosophy of quality of life issues, and discuss funeral arrangements.
  5. Compile health care information. What medications are they taking? What is their family health history? What doctors do they see? What insurance plans do they have? Have this information readily accessible in case of emergency.
  6. Make a record of where they keep other important information or papers

Keywords: Eldercare, Family, Aging Parents, Boomers