Chances are that you've seen the headlines touting the uptick in "boomerang kids" moving back home in droves post-college—and then staying put with Mom and Dad even after landing jobs.
But there's a term that some of those Moms and Dads can also call their own: the sandwich generation.
Simply put, members of the sandwich generation have the unenviable responsibility of caring for (and even financially supporting) their kids and aging parents at the same time—and often under the same roof.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
And the graying of the nation’s Baby Boomers promises to only make that dynamic all the more prevalent. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, the population of Americans aged 65 and older will increase 82% to 72.1 million by 2030—by 2040, those who are 85 or older will almost triple to 14 million.
So it's no surprise that a trio of eldercare experts—Danielle Dresden, Phillip D. Rumrill Jr. and Kimberly Wickert—decided to pool their collective prowess on the topic to co-author a new book, "The Sandwich Generation’s Guide to Eldercare."
Curious to learn more? So were we, which is why we sat down with the authors to discuss their book and its key takeaways for all those benevolent Moms and Dads out there.
LearnVest: How did the idea to write this book come about?
The authors: As rehabilitation counselors, we work with people who are going through medical or rehabilitation services, as well as physicians and other medical providers to assist in coordinating and monitoring those services. And what we found is that, even with our background in the health care field, it's often overwhelming to navigate through the process of caring for parents and children at the same time. So we wanted to share what we'd learned from both our professional and personal experiences with others.
You mention that child care is comparable to eldercare—but eldercare also comes with its own unique challenges. How can people best prepare to care for aging parents?
You should communicate with loved ones about their eldercare wishes and preferences ahead of time—and familiarize yourself with their medical background, insurance information and financial options related to long-term care. Identifying an elderly loved one’s preferences, and including him or her in the decision-making process whenever possible, helps to create trust.
For example, if it’s been determined by a medical professional that the person can no longer drive, involving him or her in identifying a plan for transportation that may include friends, family or local transit services may be one way to allow for a feeling of “control” over an otherwise negative situation. But if involving the elder is unhelpful or obstructive to the situation—say, if you need to choose a nursing facility for someone with dementia—another way to involve the person may be to pick out some items to decorate the room once the location has been identified.
Talking with a professional about the level of involvement for your elder is a good idea, and you can also review the eldercare planning document in our book, which allows families to work together to develop a plan and identify all of the information needed to provide the proper financial, medical, physical and emotional support.
Which aspects of eldercare typically prove to be the most challenging?
It varies based on the individual caregiver, but most people find the financial challenges to be the most significant. As for the eldercare recipient, this also varies based on each individual’s needs, but in our research—and our own experiences—the most common challenge is the loss of independence and its impact on the emotional and psychological well-being of elders.
And what are some tools and resources that a caregiver should consider?
Foremost, in our opinion, would be for the elder to have planned his or her estate by creating a will, a living will and a durable power of attorney. Another critical consideration: knowing what financial resources the person has available to help cover late-life care. The cost of long-term care is often underestimated, and in the overwhelmingly majority of cases, preparation for those costs are overlooked entirely in the earlier stages of the care-recipient’s life.
In some nations, there’s a cultural expectation that the elderly will remain in the family’s home, even if the level of that care is inferior to an affordable facility.
How does American society’s “attitude” toward eldercare compare to that of other industrialized nations?
America is actually among the world's leaders in terms of eldercare. Some countries lack the variety of long-term care options—assisted living, home care, skilled nursing care—that you find in the U.S. In some nations, there’s a cultural expectation that the elderly will remain in the family’s home and be cared for by family members, even if the level of that care is less than what might be available in an affordable facility.
That said, it would be valuable to grow awareness of the fact that our nation’s core eldercare program, Social Security, was developed when white males rarely lived beyond their early sixties. As the nation’s average life expectancy continues to extend (it’s currently about 76 for men and 81 for women), existing social policies and services may need to be reformed to help provide care to individuals for longer periods of time and later in life.
The book is filled with accounts of true-life eldercare stories. Do any stand out as being particularly revealing?
We used the stories of Joseph and Adaline to help illustrate an important consideration in eldercare: namely, the unique nature of every case, situation and circumstance. While Joseph and Adaline were diagnosed with the same condition—dementia—the intensity, persistence and urgency of the disease’s effects varied on a general as well as day-to-day level for each one.
Any final parting advice?
The best thing to do is plan for any future eldercare needs—not only for your elderly loved one, but also for yourself. It’s also important to be mindful of the fact that the process of providing and receiving care is a dynamic one, meaning that as we continue to age, our needs change. So while it’s advantageous to have a plan in place, it’s very important that the plan allow for some flexibility, and that those who may be managing the plan understand that changes will be ongoing.