The sandwich generation – caring for our parents

Longevity brings many advantages plus some challenges. Each family will look different, but many are experiencing the gift of their parents living longer than previous generations and some of us still have our children at home when we retire.

This trend is causing stress and there are many questions and conversations that should be taking place within the family. The depth of these conversations is often side-tracked through parents not wanting to discuss their situation and anxiety on the part of the children to open the conversation. Here are some of the many topics that should be on the radar:

• The money. A sensitive topic to try and understand what they still have left and how they are managing their budget. Pride and a lack of understanding often makes this a difficult conversation.
• Their healthcare. As their health declines you may need to help with hospital visits, caregivers and even a move into a mid or frail care facility. It may even mean having them come to live with you.
• Housing. Where they currently live and if this is still a safe and viable option in this season of life. We all love to retain our independence, and this is something that is very difficult to give-up.
• End of life conversations. Do we know what they want and if they have the necessary legal documents in place? Do you know where their will is?
• Important documents and passwords. If possible, it is wonderful to help your parents to have all their documents in order. This can save you many headaches at the time of death when you are feeling emotional and then still have the stress of looking for documents.
• Technology is driving change. This is very stressful for many. Technology also can be a great way to connect with family and friends. Take the time to teach them and help them stay connected.
• Social Isolation. This is a major factor and as the children we should ensure that they engage with family and friends as much as possible. This is difficult when one lives far away. Try and find alternative ways to fulfil this role if you cannot do so.

None of the above is easy. Longevity is a gift and can at times feel like a challenge. Sometimes the change comes suddenly with a stroke/heart attack. Each family will need to navigate their own path. Our parents sacrificed so much for us. It is time for us to do the same for them. Treasure the time and help your children to engage as much as possible with their grandparents.

We too need to learn these lesson as we will grow old next. Learn some lessons from this process for yourself. The one thing that is certain, none of us get out of this life- alive.