In what is being called the ‘sandwich generation’, more Americans over the age of 50 are responsible for the care and well-being of their parents. The sandwich term stems from the fact that at 50, more individuals are in between care roles having to care for both their parents and their own children.
Caring for an elderly parent(s) is a lot of responsibility that frequently can cause tension between other family members. There are many decisions to be made and it can be difficult to figure out a plan, especially when faced with having to care for an aging parent who takes a quick turn for the worst out of the blue.
Here are some things to consider and actions to take when facing the long-term care of an aging parent:
Call a Family Meeting
Bring together all siblings and their families to openly discuss what is going to happen in the immediate future as well as for the long term. All persons involved in the life of the parent should be able to offer input. Splitting responsibilities is the best way to keep other family members from carrying the burden. By allowing everyone a say in the matter, others are more likely to contribute to the care of the parent. Plan to meet regularly to discuss protocol for events that occur in the future.
Decide on Living Situations
Elderly people are often reluctant to move out of the home they are comfortable living in. But depending on the situation, you will need to decide if it is safe and practical for a parent to live on their own. Would it be more feasible or even necessary for your parent to move in with your family? Does your parent need 24 hour attention that can only be provided by a health care living facility? If a parent has the capacity to make decisions for themselves, be sure to include them in all discussions about the future and their own care. You may also want to defer to your parent’s doctor for advice on the long-term care aspects in regards to the situation. If your parent is incapacitated, refer to any living will or medical directive your parent has created.
If your parent is in reasonably good health and has their faculties, sit with them to go over their financials. In order to care for a person properly, it will take money. Discuss your parent’s wishes for health care, living situation expenses, and basic needs. Understand their financial obligations that need to be met each month and understand where money is located and what purposes they serve per your parents wishes. Understand where safe deposit boxes are located and organize all other financial documentation that may be necessary should a parent no longer have the ability to participate in their own care.
Plan a Schedule
Work out scheduling issues and other responsibilities for the initial care can be the best way to get organized and keep everyone in the loop of what is going on. Unless you are an only child with no other help, an official schedule can keep things on track and can help keep expectations in line. Plan out what kind of care duties need to be done, when they need to be done, and who will be doing the care duties.
Seek Help Without Guilt
If you already have your hands full with daily life, your family, and your career, the care of an aging parent may be a burden that is impossible to deal with on your own. It is best to seek out assistance rather than burn yourself out. When you become too stressed and worn out you will not be able to provide good care to those who need you. Contact your local senior services agency and ask for help. They can refer you to reputable agencies where you can find assistance in the care of a parent. They may also have programs that your parent will be eligible to receive to ease the many responsibilities and expenses that come along with caring for an aging parent.
Guilt is a big factor for adult children responsible for caring for an elderly parent. Guilt often leads to kids making choices that are not in the best interest themselves as a caregiver. Seeking help from professionals, other family members, and even close friends is perfectly acceptable as no one should shoulder the responsibilities alone. Look at the situation for what it is and know your own limits. Do the best you can for you, your family, and your parent as you work through a major transition in your lives as that is all anyone can ask of you.