Mom and Dad on their wedding day
Mom and Dad for their 50th Wedding Anniversary
I’m entering a new phase in my life. I’m becoming a member of the Sandwich Generation: the generation where my parents who have retired are starting to need more help with health and living issues, and where my nearly grown children require assistance with housing and expenses.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to help both my parents and my children. My parents have done so much for me and they will continue to do what they can to help out whenever I have a need. The time has come for me to help them more. Meanwhile, my children through no fault of their own are struggling to make ends meet in a world economy where most are struggling to find satisfactory work that can support them.
How did we get to this situation? First off, the world economy is still struggling to bounce back from the Great Recession. That event impacted both my parents and my children. First, with my parents, they are worried about the investments that are funding their retirement. Declines in the companies that they invested in are pushing the values of their retirement accounts lower, meanwhile, my children have been working to find meaningful employment. My son felt that his best course was to go back to school and work on an advanced degree. My daughter has also going into a training program that should provide her with an occupation that will allow her to support herself. Both take time and money. My parents are doing ok, their house is paid off and they live frugally on their investments. But declining health has them both worried about the future and what will happen. The trigger for them was this week. My mother has been relatively healthy. Sure, she has some a few minor issues to deal with, but this past weekend she had an incident of heart trouble. She’s in the hospital and the cardiologist is confident that they will be able to treat her and get her back on her feet. Meanwhile Dad has had his second cataract surgery and has other major health issues. He’s doing well now, but that doesn’t always mean that there won’t be problems in the future. Also, my wife’s father passed away a couple of years ago and her mother is the same age as my father. Hello, Sandwich. I’m reminded of the Blues Brothers’ song Rubber Biscuit where you have a Wish Sandwich–you have two slices of bread and you WISH you had some meat. I could wish for time and money to help solve these issues. Both are in limited quantity.
My google search resulted in over 5 million hits on the Sandwich Generation (what? where else would a person working in High Tech turn to gather information about a topic?). Many repeated the same type of information. An article from Kiplinger magazine stated:
Nearly half of Americans 55 and older say they expect to provide support for aging relatives and adult children, according to the Retirement Re-Set study by SunAmerica Financial Group and Age Wave, a research group that tracks the financial and cultural impact of the graying of America. “Family assistance has become the new retirement wild card,” says Age Wave founder Ken Dychtwald.
And an article from Reuters also reported:
Here’s the bottom line: More than 60 percent of young adults ages 19-22 receive financial help from their parents, according to a 2012 study co-authored by Patrick Wightman and Robert Schoeni at the University of Michigan. The tally comes to about $7,500 a year when help with rent, transportation and college tuition are included.
As for elder care, the sandwich generation faces frightening costs. More than 10 million Americans currently need long-term care, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Today’s average annual cost of nursing home care is $72,000; assisted living, $38,000; and home health care services up to $30,000 a year, according to Kaiser Health News. The U.S. Census Bureau says the number of Americans aged 65 or older will double to more than 70 million by the year 2030.
And, thus, we have the Sandwich fully laid out. YIKES!
So, what do I do (beyond the obvious-help out my parents and my kids)? First off, my wife and I need to make a plan. We need to look into Long Term Care Insurance for ourselves so that we don’t put a burden on our children. Next, we need to make sure that we are both on the same page when it comes to dealing with the stress that this puts on us. I believe that life hands you challenges that you can handle one of two ways: let the challenge beat you, or you can beat the challenge. I’m going to go at this one using the second approach. And, I think that we need to meet this challenge with as much good humor as possible.
Also, I have 3 sisters who can help out with my parents, and one of my sisters lives in the same city as my parents. I’m very cognizant of the added stress this places her as she and her husband are usually the go to people when problems arise. I want to make sure that she’s not shouldering all the responsibility for our parents. The four of us need to share this and help each other, and our parents out.
Next, my wife and I need to make sure that we are taking care of each other and support each other. We don’t need to face this alone. We need to find outside resources who can help with our parents, like the local Area Agency on Aging. They offer information and programs to assist elderly parents. We need to make sure that we understand what’s offered and what we’ll likely need.
Finally, I gotta get those darn kids off my dime–Actually, I’m not to worried about them. They are both great kids and want to be independent and making their way in the world. I think that’s just going to be a temporary issue until they can get through their education programs and onto their rest of their lives.
So, once more, I’m entering a new and challenging phase of my life. Back when my son first started middle school, one of the guidance counselors there asked if we enjoyed riding a roller coaster, cause living with middle schoolers was a lot like that. To be honest, all of life is like that. Sometimes you are going up the hill and sometimes you are coming down the hill. The only way to handle it is to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Links for further information on the Sandwich Generation: