The term “sandwich generation” refers to people who are raising their own children while simultaneously trying to care for aging parents. If you are “sandwiched” between these two roles, the stress can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you manage the challenge:
- Have “The Talk” with Your Parents as Soon as Possible
“The Talk” involves speaking with your parents about their wishes regarding long-term care and who will be able to make decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacity. By addressing these issues early and openly, you can then take steps to create legal documents to ensure your parents’ care will reflect their wishes. Be sure to include your siblings and other members of your extended family in these conversations so that everyone is on the same page. This will help eliminate disagreements, which can quickly turn ugly, about what mom and dad would have wanted.
- Determine How to Pay for Long-Term Care Before It’s Needed
Long-term care is expensive. While costs vary based on the level of care needed, the national average for a private room in a nursing home was $8,365 per month in 2019. Costs are higher now and are expected to rise drastically in the years to come. Unfortunately, Medicare will only cover skilled nursing care in a nursing home for a maximum of 100 days, and even then, co-pays of more than $176 per day kick in after the first 20 days. No wonder families exhaust their life savings within two years of a family member entering a nursing home!
The good news is that Medicaid will pay for long-term nursing home care. In fact, with proper planning (which is often called Medicaid Planning), it is possible to protect your parents’ assets while at the same time ensuring they receive the care they need. The sooner you look into this option, the better.
When exploring your parents’ eligibility for Medicaid, it is important to take into account rules that may disqualify them from coverage. Medicaid planning is a complicated area of the law. Mistakes can lead to costly penalties. Make sure to contact a professional familiar with the complex rules of Medicaid before trying any strategies on your own.
- Have an Estate Plan Created for Your Parents
Assuming the role of caregiver for one’s parents can be extraordinarily difficult without the help of proper legal documents that authorize you to act on their behalf. These documents include a Power of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive and Healthcare Proxy, a HIPAA Medical Release, and a Will.
- A Will directs how a person’s estate is to be administered and how his or her assets will be distributed after death. The person who creates the Will is called the Testator, while the individual who settles the estate is known as the Executor. Naming the Executor and specifying “who gets what” in advance can help eliminate family infighting.
- A Power of Attorney allows an individual to name someone (the Agent) to act on his or her behalf in the event of incapacity. The Agent can make decisions regarding property as well as legal, financial, and personal matters.
- A Living Will or Advance Directive details a person’s wishes concerning his or her medical care, including artificial life support, surgery, or other treatments related to an end of life situation or permanent unconsciousness. A Healthcare Proxy names a trusted person to make medical decisions on behalf of an individual who has become incapacitated.
- A HIPAA Medical Release allows people to specify who has access to their medical information. Without a HIPAA Release, family members may be denied access to medical and insurance records in an emergency.
Effective estate planning can include many other strategies and tools to accomplish a wide range of goals, but the above documents are absolutely essential to carrying out your parents’ wishes and fostering harmony among extended family members.
- Compile Emergency Information About Your Parents Before It’s Needed
The last thing anyone wants in an emergency is to run around hysterically searching for important medical and financial information. You should have all of the following information readily available:
- Copies of the front and back of insurance cards, prescription card, and, if applicable, military IDs
- Names and contact information of primary care physicians and specialists
- Basic medical history, such as medications, previous surgeries, and allergies
- A current list of medications and dosage
- Contact information for banks, financial advisors, insurance agents, and other key advisors
- A list of financial accounts and safe deposit boxes, as well as the institutions where they are held
- The location of all estate planning documents, including Power of Attorney, Living Will/Healthcare Proxy, Will, HIPAA Medical Release, and, if applicable, Trusts
- Involve Your Children in Your Parents’ Care
One advantage of being in the sandwich generation is that your older children can help with your parents’ care. Take advantage of this opportunity whenever possible. Maybe your daughter has a driver’s license. If so, she can take her grandparent to a doctor’s appointment from time to time. Or you can involve your son in in-person, or virtual, visits with a grandparent at the nursing home or assisted living facility. Even young children can help out. If your parents live with you, one of your young children can bring them a snack or show them how to use the television. Perhaps best of all, by spending time with their grandparents, your children will have less anxiety about what your parents are going through.
Adrianne Peters Sipes, Esq., Compass Estate Planning & Elder Law, focuses on elder law, estate planning, and closely related practice areas. To learn more about the firm, including our free, educational workshops, visit www.compassesateplanning.com. Or call (814)762-4193 to discuss your particular planning needs.
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