Most of us have heard about the Sandwich Generation: those who are caring for children and parents at the same time. Longevity has made it increasingly possible that at some point in life you will be involved in the planning or direct care of a parent – if you have not or are not caring for a parent in some capacity already. Buttonwood Financial Group has significant expertise in this area having consulted several multi-generational families, as well as participating in our own family’s planning and decision making. Here is a list of ten wise considerations for proactive planning from our families’ many experiences:
- Safety – It goes without saying that we all should make safety a high priority. However, with an aging parent safety takes on new meaning. Taking away the car keys will become necessary at some point. Early communication and garnering the support of family members and the family physician or eye doctor helps make this difficult task more palatable. Other items like basic security, fire safety, slip-and-fall prevention, and pet management all take on greater importance when these potentially become a threat to a peaceful lifestyle for all concerned. For example, pets are great and they can help keep blood pressure low, but when the pet becomes a slip-and-fall hazard, a bite or scratch liability, or a source of illness, tough and wise adult decisions must be made. For 50 practical safety tips for seniors see – http://www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/50-safety-tips-for-seniors/.
- Health – Regular dentist and doctor visits are certainly a priority. Early detection of common dental and health issues can certainly improve quality of life outcomes and minimize health care cost. Understanding Medicare and whether or not supplemental Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan is right for your parent requires knowledge and expertise. Taking the time to educate yourself and your parent may be more than you can handle. Seek a qualified professional that puts your family’s best interest first. Dental and doctor visits may require you to become a taxi service for your parent. Uber helps a lot in this regard, but may be difficult for your parent to manage alone unless they are smartphone savvy. Hiring a driver may become a necessity, or perhaps use of a service like RideKC Freedom On-Demand will help – http://ridekc.org/mobility-services/ridekc-freedom-ondemand.
- Food – Is your parent a picky eater? You might be surprised how incredibly important food is to a senior citizen. Most likely you are not going to change the eating habits of your parent, and it is probably foolish to try. Work with your parent as best you can to strike a good balance between food they like, food that is good for them, and sufficient variety to keep them interested in maintaining good nutrition. For many seniors this is a big area of concern and complaint, especially if they are at the mercy of a retirement home where the food does not meet their standards. Compromise in this area is difficult for most seniors – they like what they like to eat. Accommodate as best you can under the circumstances you have available to work with. There are no easy answers. Best wishes if you decide to take on this ‘chef’ duty as a caregiver, although this may be your highest quality and least expensive option.
- Shelter – Next to taking away the car keys, where your parent lives-out their golden or platinum years is perhaps the next toughest discussion and decision making you will face with a parent. It is hard to recognize a parent’s diminishing capacity and their inability to maintain a home. Discuss options and keep an open mind. Plan for the level of care needed today, and what lies ahead. Quality of care and cost is the balancing point – perhaps they can receive care-in-place with a few house modifications. Lifewise Renovations is one group that specializes in aging-in-place construction for seniors – lifewiserenovations.com.
- Activity – Specialized senior activities are available in most communities, but these activities may not be what your parent enjoys. Helping them come up with ideas that work for them takes some thought and time. Bingo or Bridge may not be your idea of a good time, but it may just be the right activity for your parent. Look for resources in your community like the Kansas City, MO Parks and Recreation senior programs – http://kcparks.org/about-recreation/seniors-programs/ for helpful ideas.
- Purpose – If it is possible for your parent to serve a greater purpose in their community through volunteer work or a part-time job they find fulfilling, all the better for them and all of us. Our experience here at Buttonwood is that those who continue to work or volunteer well into retirement tend to stay sharper and live longer. Purpose gives them a reason to get up in the morning and carry on through their week – http://khn.org/news/soul-purpose-seniors-with-strong-reasons-to-live-often-live-stronger/.
- Faith – Just as your taste in food might be different, your faith, religion, beliefs and politics may be entirely different than your parent’s at this stage in your lives. Just about every emotional button you have ever had with your parent may be pushed or tested at some point. Find a way to decompress when this happens, and it will, then love your parent for their differences anyway. After all, they probably did the same for you through your teenage years. Keep your faith and find new ways to cope and diffuse stressful situations so that your family finds balance and strength in the diversity of family thought and opinion. While coexist may be a term that is overused, compromise is certainly in order where strong opinions differ in family settings.
- Community – Help your parent stay mentally and physically connected to their community through church, a senior center, home owner’s association, election commission (voting), etc. This is not only good for your parent’s wellbeing, but for the community at large.
- Family – Share the caregiving load. Leverage family skills and abilities for assistance. While one family member may have to take the overall lead, let each member provide as much or as little as they can. Even if it is simply a weekly telephone call, this regular occurrence is extremely important and beneficial to a parent.
- Financial – Getting sound advice that is in your family’s best interest works well when planning is in advance of the need. Seek the advice you need with your trusted advisors as part of a well-rounded, holistic financial planning approach. These advisors are typically a Financial Planner and/or Financial Advisor, an Estate Planning or Elder-Law Attorney, and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or highly qualified accountant.
Lastly, remember to take care of yourself. Get enough rest and relaxation, and stay involved with your friends and interests. Keep lines of communication open with your spouse, parents, children, and siblings. This may be especially important for the smooth running of your multi-generation family, resulting in a workable and healthy home environment. For additional information, resources, or to contact us, visit the Buttonwood Financial Group website – https://buttonwoodfg.com/.