The Sandwich Generation: Coping with Children and Elderly Parents

Aug 04

It is no joke to be a parent, especially to a child of divorce; there are many parenting issues involved as well as a rollercoaster of emotional and financial problems even in the best of arrangements. Add into the mix the need to care for elderly parents, some with mental or physical impairments, and you have a recipe for a nervous breakdown.

Legal matters may also come into play if the parent is mentally incapacitated and estate planning becomes an issue; few think about getting a power of attorney while the parent is in full control of their faculties. And yet more and more people are finding ways to cope with being members of what is known as the “sandwich generation.”

It is estimated that in 15 years or so, about 18% of the US population will be over 65 years old, and with the present generation having children later in life, a household where a child of 12 may be living with a 50 year old parent and a 75 year old grandparent. The challenges to the adult child can be overwhelming, draining not only finances but time and emotions as well.

The toll on the elderly can also be substantial, especially when relocation stress syndrome is a factor. Many adult children live far away from their parents, and in order to take care of them, it is necessary to bring them closer. This could mean bringing the parent into the household in lieu of a nursing home or assisted living care. This can trigger mental or psychological problems, which in turn can develop child safety issues. For example, a single mother in Raleigh with a full-time job may be caring simultaneously for a parent with dementia and a child of 7. Raleigh child custody lawyers may legitimately bring up issues of the child’s safety in such a case.

On the other hand, putting an elderly parent with a physical or mental impairment in a nursing home or assisted living facility poses a different set of issues. It is mostly financial, but it can also be psychological and emotional. Most of the elderly dislike being in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers caring for them, and rapidly decline even when nursing home abuse or neglect is not an issue. Which it can be far too easily, as any Chicago elder law attorney can attest to.

There is no easy one-size-fits-all solution for the sandwich generation; it will largely depend on the family dynamics and what a particular situation calls for. Most will go through a trial-and-error process until they hit on the best possible arrangement.

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