I came across a great article in MoneyWatch by Charles Passy, “6 lessons for the sandwich generation.”
Passy relates his own experience in dealing with the commitments required while caring for his elderly father and his children. Passy identifies six lessons he’s learned, all of which provide practical, sensible advice. I would re-order them in terms of priority:
- Find great caretakers. To me, this is the most important. We all want to know that our loved ones are getting good care. With demand growing, this is not necessarily easy to do. My mother was on kidney dialysis for the last 18 months of her life. As a trained nurse, she administered the dialysis to herself every 4 to 6 hours. We were fortunate to find a wonderful woman who checked in on my mother several times a day. This provided me tremendous peace of mind. While I don’t have children, my friends have related to me how critical it is to find good daycare.
- Seek out professionals and organizations that can help. I like the idea of lining up your resources and getting professional help and advice before addressing Passy’s other 4 lessons. I was fortunate to have a circle of friends in the medical community who connected me with specialists and served as sounding boards for me when I had general questions.
- Understand the financial situation. You need to understand your parents’ assets and have full knowledge so you can make correct decisions.
- Understand whose money it is. Also great advice. For your kids, I believe it’s important to give them some responsibilities so that they understand the value of money. If they think your money is theirs, they may have trouble once they are out on their own. Conversely, for me, as my parents aged, there was never a question that their money should be spent on them – we often had to encourage our parents, who were very young during the Great Depression, to spend on them.
- Take care of yourself. Always difficult when you are pressed for time given all your commitments. But the saying that you can’t help anyone if you’re not healthy is accurate!
- Love your loved ones – Couldn’t agree more with Passy on this one. While it was challenging, time-consuming and often stressful, I would never take back the years I spent helping my mother.