Before going to bed, I had made my final notes for the event I was managing the next day in New York City. The phone rang at 4:30 a.m. —early even for me. It was an emergency medic at my parent’s house. Mom had fallen badly, her front teeth were gone, and my Dad was totally unable to move out of bed. I don’t remember dressing and getting to the house. But I do remember that voice inside that said, ‘you are not going to be in New York today, or tomorrow, or the next day. Life is now forever changed’.
The phrase “sandwich generation” was pretty much invented by the baby boomers (like me) as we are the first to experience, in mass, the world of taking care of aging parents while also keeping track of teenagers. The fact is we are balancing college planning on one shoulder and looming heath care cost for parents on the other. And then before we settle that, our own plans and needs appear just around the corner. It is no secret that women carry the greater load in terms of managing these responsibilities. Over 66 percent of the family caregivers are women.
A typical scenario goes like this: A middle-aged woman is enjoying a wonderful career when one—or both— of her parents is diagnosed with an illness, such as Parkinson’s disease. That woman is now faced with the prospect of leaving her profession to reinvent herself as a caretaker. She now enters the maze of doctors, prescription plans, Medicare, accessibility, loss of work, and the full gamut of emotions—her own and her parent’s.
Since the likelihood of something like this happening is possible, it is always good to prepare ahead of time. Here are a few recommendations.
1. Have “the talk” with your parents. This is the talk where you ask them where their “stuff” is. This includes wills, deeds, accounts, life insurance, stocks, annuities and passwords. Don’t forget to ask them about cash as well, since many people still hide it.
2. Talk about their home. If your parents own their home, have them talk with an attorney to transfer it to the children or whomever they wish, in a manner with which they are comfortable.
3. Don’t wait until they need additional care. Be proactive. Research senior housing and long-term care facilities in the area before they even need to be living in one. Take note of the ones that are most comfortable to them and the most affordable. This way, if and when the time comes, they already have a good idea of where they are going to live.
4. Assist with funeral arrangements. Go together and make their funeral arrangements and if possible, pay then in full. As difficult as it sounds, taking this trip doesn’t have to be a sad event. More often than not, parents are relieved.
5. For your next move, review you own retirement plans. Consider how will you will be cared for if the need arises. Do not be tempted to empty your 401k or other retirement savings to fund your child’s college. You will be living longer and need those savings. Your children have time.
6. Consult a financial advisor. If you have not already done so, talk to a trusted financial professional about long-term planning.
Most of all, be certain you are financially fit and agile enough to handle whatever ‘what ifs’ may lay ahead.
Susan Valentine is a financial services professional. She primarily works with helping women as well as families with children with special needs in creating sound financial plans. Her office is located at 380 Broadway, Newburgh. She can be reached by calling 728-1289 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Susan Valentine and may not accurately represent those of the individual or entity providing it.