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Caregiving:  The Bread and Butter of the Sandwich Generation

Caregiving: The Bread and Butter of the Sandwich Generation

| October 01, 2018

The phone call typically goes something like this: “My mom has had a significant change in her health and it looks like we are going to be caring for her.  My sister/brother lives out of state and does/does not have any ability to help.  We are not sure how all of this will look, but we may be asking you some questions as we get into this.”

While not all caregiving situations arise due to aging, most of what we see is an aging spouse or a single parent.  Just like planning for retirement or other big life events, caregiving issues need to be discussed prior to a crisis.

Some basics to think about:

  1. Have several small discussions over time with your parents and spouse about what they want or don’t want to happen if they become incapacitated. One of my favorite ways to approach parents about this is by asking for their advice.  “Dad, Bob and I were talking about our long-term care plan and were wondering what you could tell us about how you and mom worked through this?”  Learn their intent: who they want to help, their concerns and what they have done to get ready. It is a great start to a more thorough conversation.
  2. Make sure the documents reflect everyone’s wishes. Its not enough to tell someone they are going to be in charge.  Typically, Powers of Attorney (POA’S) are needed to do almost anything related to banking, bills, medical decisions, etc. 
  3. Make sure the logistics make sense. Maybe there is family close by – but are they the ones capable of helping.  Do they have the time, relationship, and capacity to do what’s needed.  Be realistic!  Be sure the resources available meet the task.  Maybe the siblings can help with the cost, maybe they can’t.  Be frank about what can actually be done and for how long.
  4. Assemble the team. Maybe you’re the one who always does everything.  That won’t likely work here.  Caregiving can be a challenging and often lifechanging event.  Don’t underestimate the amount of time and energy required.  Find out what must be done locally and if possible, delegate the other parts to family abroad.  Ask for help!  Reach out to family, your church, community care organizations, your friends.  Don’t attempt this alone.
  5. Pace yourself – you really don’t know the time frame or what’s ahead. Plan for breaks and know that life is still happening around you.  Listen to your body and learn your limitations. 
  6. Be ready to offer - and accept - grace. This will be stressful.  Many families find themselves at odds during these times of stress.  Know that everyone has a limit and processes these events differently than you. 

The comment that bothers me most is “We should have seen this coming and done more to prepare.”  Not because planning solves all the challenges, but because the best planning happens prior to the stressful event. 

If you want to look deeper into this issue, I recommend taking a look at the AARP Guide for Family Caregiving. It provides a much more in-depth guide to Caregiving.  If you want advice about your specific situation or concerns, let us help.