As Boomers Age, Planning Becomes Critical

They are called the Baby Boomers; The Sandwich Generation. They are the largest segment of our population; born between the years of 1948 and 1964. The tendencies for this group to relocate, delay marriage and have children later in life are creating complicated lifestyles, especially in relation to their aging parents.

Adding the care of an aging parent to your repertoire can be overwhelming to say the least. It is a fact of life that over the course of time, the roles of parents and their children become reversed and the younger must eventually care for the older. Those of the "Sandwich Generation" may find themselves frequently caring for children and caring for aging parents simultaneously.

The Baby Boomers are frequently children of first or second generation immigrants who experienced The Great Depression,World War II and the Holocaust. The Baby Boomers are children of survivors. This aging generation already has a strong foundation of survival and resiliency. However, this foundation is not enough when inevitable changes related to aging begin to take place. Aging can be accompanied by gradual physical, emotional, cognitive and financial decline. Sometimes decline or disability comes suddenly in the form of an accident or medical crisis. A certain amount of decline of your parent will take place. It's not something we like to think about, but it is inevitable. It is a fact of aging.

There are six basic long term needs that should be addressed with your aging parent. Building this plan is important in being more resilient when times of transition, loss and crisis occur in your family. The goal of the comprehensive plan is to preserve independence and quality of life for your parent. Each issue must be addressed before your parent can move on to the next "hierarchal" need.

(1) Medical: Have a trusted doctor actively involved in your parent's care and promote wellness. Be accountable for learning and understanding the medical issues at hand so you can help in the prevention or follow up of pertinent needs. If your parent is medically unstable, you won't be setting goals on anything but their survival or funeral plans.

(2) Psychiatric: Have a plan for coping with the possibility of mental health issues such as clinical depression or alcohol, medication or other abuses or addictions. When your parent is counting the hours until the next pain pill, setting up a financial plan will not be viewed as a priority.

(3) Physical: Physical issues encompass areas of home safety, accessibility and planning for residential alternatives when care at home is no longer the best option for your parent. Stay informed of the many creative options that are available to you in this area. If your parent is isolated because he or she is homebound and can't go up and down the stairs, your parent won't place a priority on creating ways to get to the social club.

(4) Legal/Financial: If your parent hasn't already done so, address financial planning, estate and tax planning, medicaid, insurance and competency issues. The overall goal is financial independence, the ability to pay the costs of long term care and advance direction related to health care . Without financial independence and advance directives (e.g. living will, health care proxy), your parent will not have the reassurance of getting the kind of care he or she prefers.

(5) Social: This encompasses your parent's hobbies, diversional activities, and areas of productivity. It is about connecting with others: family, friends, neighbors and community. It is about preserving individuality, complete with cultural and ethnic traditions. It is about learning and growing, no matter what age your parent happens to be.

(6) Spiritual: This addresses the ongoing development of your parent's understanding of what is important in life. This is the area where faith, hope and charity reside. It is where knowledge and forgiveness take place in the depths of our hearts.

Take this step as an opportunity to communicate and share with your parent. As you help with the planning, encourage your parent to be as independent as possible. People who see themselves as having an element of control always feel more secure and therefore will be more resilient when changes take place. Reassure your parent that the primary purpose of the long term care plan is to ensure that an element of control always exists, no matter what happens. Remain objective and, if you can't be, involve a third party to assist you in making these important decisions.

You will need to assemble a team of professionals to help you in implementing this plan. This selected team should consist of a physican, an attorney who understands long term care, a financial adviser and a geriatric care manager who can help you pull the entire plan together. This team will become an important part of the foundation that will help you and your parent to feel more secure and confident in facing the days ahead.

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