Caregiving is a tough job and for the growing number of families who are responsible for both their aging parents and dependent children, the responsibility can feel like climbing an endless mountain. The collective physical, financial and mental toll can be exhausting and even more so if you’re also attempting to juggle a career and personal time.
Without a doubt the Sandwich Generation is feeling the burn. However, according to Rick Lauber, author of The Successful Caregiver’s Guide and himself a caregiver to aging parents, having a plan in place can make transitioning to a caregiving role a whole lot smoother. He notes in his book that “While aging, sickness, and eventual death are not pleasant topics to think or talk about, denial of these facts is not an answer.” he goes on to say “Mom or Dad may seem fine today, but she or he could easily fall and break a hip tomorrow. Realistically, one must expect and prepare for the future caregiving role.”
Have the difficult conversations
One important way to prepare is to get very clear on how your parents envision their twilight years. Opening the door to discussions around health, finances, living arrangements, and hopes and dreams for the future provides clarity on expectations. While not always easy conversations to have, it is worth the discomfort in the end. Once you understand where your parent stands on these issues, you can move forward with researching, calculating, and forecasting now rather than when emergency strikes.
Prepare for physical decline
The best case scenario for most seniors is to age in place for as long as possible. In order to do so safely and healthily, thorough home assessments must be conducted on an ongoing basis to ensure your parents needs are met. According to Gordon Morrison, author of Aging Safely in Your Home, “Whatever your [parents] reasons for wanting to stay in place, you should consider those reasons understanding that issues such as personal isolation, personal security, falls prevention, physical inactivity, dietary needs, medical accessibility and for some, cost factors should be the major focal points of reasoning because these are some important things to consider.” Taking the time to identify potential problems and researching and implementing solutions in advance will go a long way to ensuring your parent ages in place as long as possible.
Take care of yourself
Remaining physically and mentally fit provides much-needed balance for everyone. Getting enough sleep, socializing, pursuing hobbies and finding a physical outlet that you enjoy all reduce stress and equip you with the tools required to perform at your best. Heed this advice early and you will be in great shape if and when the time comes to step up and provide care for your loved one.