If you're raising children while also caring for—and perhaps even supporting—elderly parents, you're a member of the so-called "sandwich generation."
But having a label to describe your plight doesn't make it any easier. Nor does the fact that roughly half of all Americans have a parent age 65 or older, according to data from the Pew Research Center.
Juggling the responsibilities of caring for aging parents and children—while also holding down a job and making a little time for yourself—can be overwhelming. Here are some tips for easing the challenge.
Get everyone's finances out in the open. Transparency will help you and your family members deal with money effectively and preserve your relationships. You should be familiar with your parents' financial situation, including their assets and liabilities. You'll want to ask about their sources of income, as well as any life insurance policies they hold. At the same time, you should let them know the extent to which you're willing or able to help cover their expenses. Consider this level of transparency with your kids as they get closer to college. Doing so will help them understand how much financial support they can expect from you and what they'll need to do to make up the balance, such as getting a job, applying for scholarships or working while at school.
Get help when you need it. Members of the sandwich generation often handle complex matters, such as legal and financial issues, for their parents. Lean on qualified experts, including a Certified Financial Planner, a certified public accountant and an estate-planning attorney, to help you navigate the situation. At a minimum, make sure your parents have a will, a living will and a power of attorney—and be sure you do, too.
Don't cut corners on professional caregivers. You can't be there for everyone all the time. Caregivers can make a huge impact on both the older and younger family members in your life—and provide you with the respite you need to continue caring for your loved ones in the long term. Ask your friends and colleagues for referrals to trusted care providers. Depending on your goals, you may want to make direct hires to keep costs down or use an agency to ensure continuity of care.
Practice self-care. Members of the sandwich generation are taxed by a lot of responsibilities and worry at the same time that their own careers may be the most demanding. Taking time to recover and renew is essential. Don't forget to address your own needs: Sleeping, eating well and caring for your mental health help you stay strong so you can care for your loved ones. Incorporate self-care, such as an exercise class or a hobby you love, into your daily routine. Spend time with your partner or friends, or schedule some time alone. Make these brief windows of respite a guilt-free period away from those who depend on you.
Taking care of others can be a full-time job, but taking the steps above can help make your full plate more manageable.
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