The responsibilities of caregiving have grown as a result of basic demographics and the pandemic’s economic effects. More adult children have boomeranged back to the nest to deal with the burden of student loans while starting their careers. Additionally, seniors are living longer and often require care in advanced age. According to a recent AARP survey, about 3 in 10 midlife adults will provide regular financial support to their parents in the future, and half are providing financial support to adult children.

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Those multigenerational supporters are known as the “Sandwich Generation” – the people in the middle of the sandwich who provide support on both sides of the generational divide and are usually in their forties or fifties. These caregivers generally provide time to support the older generation and money to support the younger generation, which may be children or adult children. Some might even find themselves in a “Club Sandwich,” which refers to providing support to three generations: grandchildren, children, and parents.

It is admirable to provide so much familial support, but the double or triple-duty caregivers are more likely to face burnout and negative stressors. The financial burden may also come at a difficult time, when caregivers should be in the home-stretch of saving for retirement. It can be helpful to draw support from the large community of others going through similar situations and the additional resources that exist.

Becoming a caregiver for our aging parents

In many situations, the first step toward overcoming a problem is admitting one exists.

Some caregivers do not self-identify as caregivers, because they slowly take on more and more tasks the senior once performed independently. It is not easy to face the fact that someone who once cared for you cannot do the things they once could.

Reality becomes clearer when the parent needs help with personal care such as bathing or going to the bathroom. Suddenly, big choices need to be made right away. By recognizing the transition has begun, plans can be put in place to help preserve independence or provide assisted living to help ensure the comfort of the parent for a longer period. It may be uncomfortable to discuss, but communication is important. Try to eliminate some of the guesswork by directly asking your parent what they need to be comfortable and happy.

If you start thinking of yourself as a caregiver earlier, it may be easier to compile financial and health records. You may need to have a power of attorney to make some decisions. If a parent develops Alzheimer’s or dementia it can be more difficult to locate and access all their accounts. As a result, learning passwords for digital accounts early on can be crucial.

Although you may want to take over all the caregiver responsibilities yourself, it is okay to hire help. Seniors may find it difficult to suddenly need help with tasks they previously did for themselves, and may find it even more difficult to pay for the care. They may not want to ask for it. Changing the mentality early on and in smaller increments can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and your parent from feeling guilty or as if they are a burden.

Additionally, AARP provides resources, advice, and answers to help you navigate the transition to caregiver. They offer articles on topics ranging from at-home care, to life balance, to local resources and solutions. It can be helpful to seek guidance from industry experts to help make the process smoother and less challenging.

Looking ahead

Working with an experienced client advisor, such as those at Arvest Wealth Management, can help identify financial obligations on the horizon and offer affordable options. As we age, the increasing cost of healthcare is substantial. However, if the parent is younger, they may be able to get long-term care insurance to ensure financial resources are available to help cover those costs.

If the parent is more affluent, it might be appropriate to set up a living trust. Should the parent become incapacitated, the caregiver can focus on providing emotional support and the trust officer will step in to provide continued management of the finances.

As your parent ages, their living circumstances will likely need to change based on the care they need. Here are some questions you may want to revisit every couple of years to prepare for the future:

  • Can your parent live alone? Is he or she comfortable doing so?
  • Are you or a sibling better suited to care for your parent?
  • Does your schedule permit you to take your parent to necessary doctor appointments?
  • Does your parent need temporary or long-term care?
  • Does your parent need round-the-clock supervision? If so, can you or a sibling provide it?
  • What type of medical care does your parent need on a regular basis?

Sometimes, caregivers may need to be care receivers.

Being a caregiver can be a joyous, fulfilling experience. In fact, according to the American Psychological Associations examination of caregivers in “Mental and Physical Health Effects of Family Caregiving,” many caregivers are not overwhelmed by the additional work and may experience improved health and reduced mortality. On the other hand, they also found subgroups exist where caregiving duties were more likely to be overwhelming and could result in significant negative stress and financial burdens.

Those who face the daunting task of being in the “Sandwich Generation” are more likely to fall into the second category and neglect self-care. If a sibling has taken on the primary caregiver responsibilities, make sure to show appreciation for their efforts, and remind them to engage in self-care too.

Help can come in many forms, not just from others in the family. Many cities and communities offer professional advice, support groups, and free resources for family caregivers.

This content has been prepared by The Merrill Anderson Company and is intended as a general guideline.

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