I don’t know how this slipped by me with the type of work I do, but July was National Sandwich Generation Month. I would say a happy belated National Sandwich Generation Month to my clients and others in this demographic, but I know their lives are often anything but happy. For those of you unaware of what the “sandwich generation” is, it is the generation of people who are handling care issues for their parents and/or grandparents while at the same time taking care of their children and/or grandchildren. In my estate planning and elder law practice, I see many people in this demographic and they are often exhausted and at their wits end. This article will describe the “sandwich generation” in more detail and give some pointers to help people faced with the responsibilities on taking care of both of these fronts.
According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 8 Americans is taking care of a parent and a child simultaneously. The U.S. Census Bureau says the number of people over 65 will double by 2030 so this number is only going to increase. Carol Abaya first coined the term “sandwich generation” to describe those “sandwiched” between their aging parents and/or grandparents and still raising their own young children or still supporting their adult children. Nearly 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s fall into this category and about 15% of middle-aged adults are providing financial support for both a parent and a child. The responsibilities of care and financial support can be overwhelming and many people do not know where to turn for help.
Seeing an attorney may not be the first thing that comes to mind when trying to deal with “sandwich generation” responsibilities, but an elder law attorney may be a very good place to start. First, an elder law attorney can make sure you have the proper documents in place in case you need to make financial or health care decisions for your parent or grandparent. Additionally, an elder law attorney will know the requirements for government programs, like Medicaid and VA benefits, that might allow you to pay for some outside care and provide you some respite. At the same time, if you are paying for these costs out of your own pocket, an elder law attorney may be able to find the funding so you won’t have to.
Many elder law attorneys also are a wealth of information when it comes to finding out about your aging parents or grandparents’ Social Security and Medicare payments. They also often know about Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage plans. Since elder law attorneys often deal with clients needing long-term care, they may be able to assist you with the legal issues associated with bringing someone into your loved one’s home to assist with their care. When home care is no longer feasible, they may also be able to assist you with finding the right assisted living facility or nursing home and how you can pay for care there.
Some elder law attorneys also offer life care planning for their clients. A life care plan is a plan that addresses the legal, financial and care issues that go along with aging and loss of capacity. It provides a roadmap to help you and your loved ones prepare for the things we know will happen along the elder care continuum. Life care planning may also provide a social worker or other professional to help you deal with these issues.
As difficult as being in the “sandwich generation” is, the loss of a loved one which often ends the feeling of being “sandwiched” presents its own set of problems. An elder law attorney can also assist you with wrapping up your loved one’s estate and distributing property to those who are to receive it.
The “sandwich generation” isn’t going away any time soon; rather, the number of Americans involved in caring for their parents and grandparents while at the same time caring for their children and grandchildren is only going to increase. Along with this increase in numbers comes an increased need for resources. Starting with an elder law attorney is a very good place to begin finding the resources you need to alleviate some of the stress of being in the “sandwich generation.”
Mrs. Melancon has engaged in the practice of law in Louisiana for the past 17 years. The primary focus of her practice is estate planning, special needs planning, elder law and probate. She is also accredited by the VA to give advice regarding veterans’ benefits. For more information, please contact her at 225-744-0027. You may also visit her website at www.LegacyCenterLa.com.