The sandwich generation is so-named to reflect the fact that 40 and 50-something parents still caring for their own children… are now also dealing with caring for one or more of their parents. It can be a daunting proposition.

Assuming the children, from pre-adolescents in grade school to young adults in college or university, are all without any significant challenges of their own (Why not? I have great faith in your parenting skills!) the challenges posed by a 70-plus year-old parent can be overwhelming, particularly if the challenges are health-related.

If the parents can maintain a mostly independent lifestyle in their own home, requiring only sporadic and minor assistance like the occasional drive somewhere or accompaniment on some appointments, there is still a huge tendency for the offspring – particularly the females – to spend a significant amount of time beyond that which is necessary with their parent(s). This creates a challenge at home, as the children and spouse may feel neglected. Handled the other way (more time with family and little time with parents) leaves offspring felling guilty and neglectful. Either way, it can be a very exhausting stage of life, both physically and emotionally.

The challenges posed by a 70-plus year-old parent can be overwhelming, particularly if the challenges are health-related.
If the parents are at an assisted-living stage of life yet still in their own home, you have the option of hiring outside caregivers to assist the parents… yet according to many experts, in about 70% of the cases, it does not cut down on the time the offspring spends with their parent! If out of habit, just wanting to check or a need to control… whatever it is, the offspring often do not let go when professionals come in to help their parent.

The dynamics change, of course, when a parent moves in. Depending on the existing relationships when this occurs, it can be a positive and nurturing time of your life… or the complete opposite.

Most agree that the biggest challenge for the sandwich generation occurs when the parent(s) must leave the primary home, giving up their independence to move into a retirement living facility. Apart from the often overwhelming emotional trauma of such a move, the choices facing seniors are also mind-boggling. Independent care, supportive care, assisted care and complex care facilities; private or public, medical supervision or not… on and on the choices seem to go. Making the best choice possible is daunting for most ‘sandwichers’, be it a lack of time, a lack of authentic interest, a lack of understanding… it is just another complication.

One thing is certain.

Talking about the eventuality and planning for it long before it occurs — while likely difficult — is the best strategy for mitigating the impact on all entities: grandparents, parents and grandchildren alike. It is part of the elder planning regimen and is just as important for the sandwich generation as their own financial/family planning is to them. It is the most dignified and graceful way to get through this unique stage in our lives.

Talk to an elder planning professional today; you’ll be happy you did.