July is Sandwich Generation Month!

When I hear the word ‘Sandwich’ I tend to think of Peanut-Butter and Jelly, which always brings a smile to my face.

But there is a new way of viewing ‘Sandwich’ that is not so much fun.  That’s the role more of us are playing by being the caregivers of both our parents and our children.

In the grand scheme, this is not really anything new.  Families used to always take care of the generations, often in a single home.  Grandma and Grandpa shared the same home with their children and grandchildren providing wisdom and assistance as the new generation came along, and receiving the attention and care of those in the family as they slowed down in their elder years.

But things changed, especially here in the United States, and families tended to live in their own separate homes with Grandma and Grandpa often living across town or even across the country.  Most of us today can’t imagine even sharing a room with a sister or brother, let alone imagine sharing a home with Grandma or Grandpa.

None of us would consider leaving a two-year old home alone.  After all, the two-year old can’t really get food to eat or make sure they make it to the bathroom on time.  And there are things in the home that could injure the child if they are not used correctly.  The two-year old is also just learning about freedom and self-reliance and if the two-year old refuses to do what we tell them to do for their own good, we can pick them up and put them in their bedroom for a ‘time out’.  The parents get to set the ground rules because a two-year old doesn’t know that it is even possible to stay up past 8:00.

It’s a different story with our aging parents.  They DO know that they can stay up past 8:00, and they’ve done it for years!  Why, they even taught US!  And most of the time, they are too large to pick up and physically move to the bedroom for a ‘time out’ when they get cantankerous.  Unfortunately, our aging parents might also be in the position of not being able to get food for themselves or eating correctly, or making it to the bathroom on time, or using things in the home that can cause injury if not used correctly.

Our parents are living longer and having more health issues, both physical and mental, then previous generations.  I know there was nobody in my family that ever got cancer until my uncle was diagnosed a few years ago.  But nobody in the family had ever lived to be 85 before either.   On my dad’s side of the family, there wasn’t a history of dementia until the family members starting living into their 90’s.

Luckily, there are more and more services available to help us take care of our parents.  These services can take away some of the stress involved in day-to-day chores such as making sure that our parents are eating correctly and being kept clean and safe.  There was a time when babysitters and day-care centers for children were a new concept, even though today we see them as an established institution in our lifestyle.  It appears that there will come a day when adult care givers and adult day-care centers will also become established in our lifestyle.

These services cost money.  But unlike children who have no resources of their own, often our parents will have some resources available to them to help pay for the services needed for their care.

Also, as parents of minor children you have the legal authority to make decisions for your children.  This is not so for your parents.  It is important to have the correct documents in place so that you have the authority to make important and day-to-day decisions for your aging parents.  These include Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives.  You might also want to consider establishing a Trust so that your parent’s assets can be transferred with a minimum of hassle and used for their benefit.

What should you do?  Read…there are a lot of resources available on the web.  Talk to your parents…find out what they want while they are able to tell you.  Talk to people you trust…your doctor, your pastor, your lawyer.  Ask them to recommend services or service providers that they trust.  Unfortunately there are some scams out there that sound good but don’t really offer the right services for your needs.  And most of all, have patience. Remember that these are the people that spent their time raising you, dealing with you when you made mistakes and who helped mold you into who you are today.  Be patient with them, knowing that they are also having difficulty dealing with this role reversal.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

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