It’s no secret that adults of the sandwich generation are busy. Careers, multiple children with extra-curricular activities, and caring for an aging parent are just a few of the things that take up their time. Since more than two-thirds of those over 65 will need assistance to deal with a loss in functioning at some point, there’s a good chance that many adult children will find themselves caring for more than one senior at once. The task can be daunting: according to a new study by Northwestern Mutual, 59 percent of Americans feel that taking care of two parents between ages 85 and 90 would be even harder than handling two kids between ages three and five.
While it may be tempting to drop certain commitments and handle all of the caregiving needs alone, it can sometimes have devastating effects on an adult child professionally, personally, and financially. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more caregivers are hospitalized due to burnout and stress-related illness than from worsening medical conditions, simply because they tend to put themselves last.
Caring for multiple elders at once may be inevitable, so being prepared and knowing all of your options will ensure that your loved ones are well taken care of, while avoiding detrimental caregiving stress.
While it may be difficult to have “the talk” with aging parents, it is an important conversation that can save a lot of hassle and stress in the long run. Take advantage of holidays and celebrations where family members get together to have a discussion with your aging loved ones. While planning for the future, be sure to discuss financial needs, caregiving options, and the wishes of the aging seniors in your life. Each senior loved one should have an advance directive – a formal document stating their medical wishes in a life-threatening health situation – and establishing who has power of attorney in a situation where the senior can no longer make decisions. Talk to your aging loved ones about their preferences; do they want to age in place at home, or would they would feel comfortable moving to an assisted-living facility if needed?
Financial planning is also crucial. Without preparation, the costs of long-term care can be crippling. According to the Genworth Financial Cost of Care study, the national median cost for an assisted-living facility is $43,200 annually, and almost double that for a private room in a skilled nursing facility. The average cost for an in-home caregiver starts at around $18 per hour, according to Care Scout. Even if a senior has retirement savings, that can be expended quickly, often times leaving the financial burden on adult children. The Northwestern Mutual report found that 38 percent of those surveyed have not planned at all for handling the financial burdens of caring for their elderly parents.
Long-term care insurance covers the cost of most in-home care and nursing home care, things which Medicare does not cover. While long-term care insurance may not cover all care costs, it will significantly reduce the financial burden on those paying for care, especially in cases where more than one senior needs it. There are other options for funding care as well, such as Veterans’ benefits and reverse mortgages. Even if your senior loved ones do not need help yet, planning ahead is one way to avoid conflicts with siblings and other loved ones when the time comes.
Prioritize and Delegate
Because caring for multiple seniors at once can quickly become overwhelming, it’s important to learn to prioritize needs and delegate tasks. First, consider the different needs of each senior. Your mother may need hours of help every day with getting dressed, bathing, and preparing meals, while your father-in-law may simply need a companion to sit with him a few hours a week. Identify these needs in order to find which method of care is right for the senior, with the goal of lessening their dependence on you or a loved one. While it’s important to focus on those seniors that need help, it’s just as important not to neglect healthy seniors who may not need help yet. The time you have to spend with your aging parents is precious and shouldn’t be lost just because another senior has more pressing needs. This is yet another reason why it’s important to reach out for help with caregiving.
Delegating tasks will ensure that all caregiving doesn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. An adult child, their spouse, and their siblings frequently have busy lives and may live far away from the senior. However, even simple tasks` like checking in over the phone or weekly visits can be divided out. If one child is a full-time caregiver, then a sibling can offer respite care and use a week of vacation to take over caregiving duties. It’s important for adult children to reach out for help when it’s needed, and not to get overwhelmed by caring for multiple elders. Suzanne Mintz, president of the National Family Caregivers Association, said that most caregivers wait four to five years before seeking support. “We caregivers often struggle alone for years thinking this is just part of our responsibility before we reach out for help,” she said.
Financial planner Kristi Sullivan recommends hiring a case manager to take some of the burden off of caregivers, especially those caring for multiple elders. “For an hourly fee, these people can handle tasks quickly that it might take you hours to do – scheduling doctor’s appointments, handling medical payments and dealing with insurance, helping find a good nursing home or in-home care,” Sullivan said. “Spending this money may seem expensive, but it’s less than putting someone’s career on hold to become a full-time caregiver.”
Written by Taylor French, Amada contributor.