When I first heard the term Sandwich Generation I thought it may be a reference to a generation of people raised on a lunch diet of PB&J in a brown bag.
I have since learned that “The Sandwich Generation” refers to the segment of the population generally age 40-59 who care for their children at home and provide some kind of support to an aging parent.
As the Baby Boomer population ages, more and more people will fit into this demographic. Balancing the demands of dependent children, aging parents, spouse, work, etc. presents its own set of challenges and can be overwhelming.
While my parents are in good health at this time, I can see that as they age, they will need more support from me and my siblings. Before that time comes, I want to make a list of things to take care of now and pause to note some things that I want to remember.
Prepare for it. Have the “hard” conversations now. Most of us do not enjoy conversations about becoming disabled, or death and dying, but it is better to know where everything stands before the crisis comes. Know their wishes. Get a grasp on the financial situation. Develop a big picture plan. It may change, but at least there is a starting point. Make sure all the paperwork is in order.
Seek out the right professionals. Do the research. Many professionals hold workshops and give free consultations for estate planning, long-term care, hospice, financial planning, etc. Find companies and people that you trust to provide good care.
Hire an estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney will guide you in getting your affairs in order, including implementing the documents you need not just for your financial needs but also to plan for disability.
Be respectful. It is estimated that the average cost of raising a child to age 17 is $245,000. That doesn’t include college. I am so thankful that my parents made that investment me. Value the things that are important to them. Respect their boundaries. Protect their dignity. God tells us in Exodus 20:12 to honor our mother and father. (Even when it feels like the roles are reversed)
Expect your children to grow up. At some point, my children will be off of my payroll and living independently. The reality is that life is expensive. They may need to live at home for a little while before establishing their own. Set expectations. Require that they contribute to the household financially and physically.
Love them while you can. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. Make good memories. Take pictures. Have long conversations about anything. Forgive quickly. Pray for them often.
Take care of yourself. Before I had children of my own, I didn’t really understand the airplane instructions regarding the oxygen mask. Who would put the oxygen mask on someone else first? Now I completely understand that we will give it all (without thinking) to the people we love before taking care of ourselves. Consider this: If you are sick and rundown, who will do what you do? Get some rest. Eat right. Exercise.
Ask for help. Take a break every once in a while to refresh your mind and heart.
Being sandwiched can be a very stressful time in life. Don’t miss the opportunity to make it meaningful as well.