There is a growing generation in our country, and it is not a generation in the normal definition of the word. There are 43.5 million unpaid caregivers over the age of 50 in our country. And, worse, one in four caregivers has taken leave from work to simply care for the family.1.
This sometimes overwhelming sense of duty to both our children and our parents may cause us to lose sight of the responsibility we owe to ourselves. There is no doubt it can take a physical and mental toll on you…It can take a financial toll on you as well. And, worse than all of this, it can take a toll on your family life.
I recently heard a story about a lady that spent her weekends flying to Denver to watch “Dad” and relieve her sister. She cried as she began to talk about missing her son’s baseball games, her career being put on the backburner and starting to crumble, and her marriage on the rocks. She said, “Dad would have never wanted this if he only knew….”
If you are a member, or will be, of this “S Generation”, or as we call it the “Responsibility Club”, take a deep breath. With careful attention and little planning, you can take care of your children and your parents and still take care of you. Here are a few ideas to help you get on the right track.
First, remember to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else. You cannot help someone else unless you help yourself first. This means eat well, exercise, meditate, sleep, and take care of your privacy and close relationships. And as hard as it might be, it is imperative to put you first, then your spouse, then your children, and then your parents. How will you do this? Get help if you need to in order to find the answer…but do it.
Then, it’s time to talk. And, most importantly be candid. Get the facts and give the facts. Bet truthful, especially with yourself. Your family does not need any surprises added to the stress load.
- Talk about your budget. What are your financial needs? What will it cost to get your son through college and your daughter married? How much will you want and need for your future and your retirement? What would being in the Responsibility Club do to you financially? The fact is, that with over 77 million Baby Boomers entering retirement, you might not be able to obtain the same government benefits your parents can now, thereby placing a much larger burden on your own children and bringing them into the same club.
- Talk to your parents. What do they want their care to look like if they need it? Who will give it? How will it be paid for? What is their financial situation? What plans have been made to aid an illness or incapacitation? Do they have adequate medical, Medicare supplement and long-term care insurance?
- Talk to your children. In most cases, children can easily make an adjustment if your questions and concerns are openly discussed. So, let them know your situation, give them the full picture of your responsibilities, not just to them, but to your parents as well. If need be, ask them if they will be willing to financially support you later in life. Discuss expectations, college funding, scholarships, part-time jobs, and goals (you have to draw the line before you dip into your retirement needs to pay for college).
Next, make your responsibility legal. One of the most critical yet overlooked planning issues we see is obtaining the necessary legal documents. In an emergency, who can make financial decisions for Mom? Who can make medical decisions for my 18-year old son? And, what about vice versa? The basic documents include: durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney and living wills (directives to physicians). However, these cover just the basics and often are not enough. It is important to discuss this issue with your Life Planner and your attorney.
And, last but definitely not least, plan. If you take these first few steps, you should feel much better about your membership in the Responsibility Club. Nonetheless, you must stay focused or this will all be just a waste of time. Create and maintain a plan with your Life Planner that will balance your present situation and future goals and your family dynamics. The most important thing about this plan is that it addresses the things that are significant to you. Maybe this includes your children’s college education, a successful retirement, and your parent’s sense of security. Whatever these might be…there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just remember to evaluate your plan on a regular basis to adjust for the passage of time and changing circumstances. You might be pleasantly surprised how you can achieve more than you thought you would.
In short, don’t be a victim of your circumstances. Take ownership, get help and find a way to live Life on purpose!
- Pew Research, AARP, National Alliance for Caregiving, Raymond James research, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Institute on Aging