When Are Baby Boomers No Longer the Sandwich Generation?

Q. How do we address the challenges of caring for an aging parent while still parenting our children?
A. Usually the Eddy & Schein newsletter explores issues extracted from the experiences of one or more of our clients. However, caring for a parent when you're in the sandwich generation is a widespread issue, and one that is very personal to Rebecca Eddy. Here Rebecca answers some questions on the topic. 

Q. When are baby boomers no longer the sandwich generation?
A. It depends. In my case, with a father who will probably live to 100 and kids who are being impacted by the bad economy, who knows? My dad is 91 and going strong. I am nearing 60 and my two siblings are right behind. My children are adults with children of their own and my nieces and nephew are 14 to 28. So, my brother, sister, and I are firmly in the sandwich generation, caring for our dad, and concerned about our children and their lives.

Q. What can the sandwich generation do to ease the strain?
A. When possible, share the responsibilities. My dad, always the coordinator, has identified each of our skills, and calls his three children his "Three B's": Business, Body, and Building. I'm in charge of his Business (finances); my sister takes responsibility for his Body (doctor's appointments, physical therapy, hearing aids, etc.); and our brother deals with the Building (our dad's home, interior adaptations, and exterior ramp for a wheelchair, appliances that catch fire, etc.)

Q. What can be done when there are no siblings and the primary caregiver is short on time or does not have the needed skills or knowledge?
A. Hire professionals who know the field and have the skills. For instance, I do for my father what I do for my clients - but if I didn't understand his finances, I would hire somebody like me, who could:
Maintain records of his expenses in Quicken
Review his bills for inaccuracies
Call his insurance company and Medicare
Decide with him whether to pay for appliance maintenance (generally, no)
Talk to his bankers
Make deposits
Assess whether he has the funds to purchase hearing aids and other items that will improve his quality of life
My sister fills the usual role of a Geriatric Care Manager and my brother of Building Manager/Handyman. Still we are squeezing our work for our father into our busy lives. Our dad might be better served to hire professionals who make it their top priority to be available and address their clients' needs.

Q. Given the understaffed hospitals, how can seniors get the care they need?
A. Hire an aide to supplement hospital care. When our father landed in the hospital, we all dropped everything to be with him. Once the crisis was over, a pattern developed. The three siblings, their spouses, and friends took shifts visiting. We emailed each other with updates of doctors' bedside visits, tests done, medicine prescribed, and questions to ask. But after awhile, we all had to go back to work and to our children. We were concerned about coverage during the day, but also about his nighttime care when visiting hours were over. Based on my work experience, I knew we could hire an aide to be his companion and to respond to his desires, as well as be our eyes and ears. The aides kept a log of medicines taken, doctors seen, and visitors or callers. So, when we visited after work, we were up to speed on any follow-up needed.

Q. What if family members do not get along either with the senior or other family members?
A. Professionals can often relieve the intra-family strain. My family is fortunate in that we all get along well and are willing to share the responsibilities. If we didn't, there are generational coaches, who will mediate and resolve issues within the family, either intra-generational or intergenerational.

In addition, turning to professionals to handle the day-to-day support of an elder can eliminate the tension caused by one member carrying the majority of the work load.

Click here for a check list of professionals by category. And click here for a link to helpful resources on the Eddy & Schein web site.

Q. When are baby boomers no longer the sandwich generation?
A. When, thankfully, our children are fully self-sustaining or, sadly, when our parents have passed on. Enjoy the time you have with them now.

June 2011 - FEATURE
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