The sandwich generation refers to those caring for their children/grandchildren and elderly parents. The number of families in this category will likely increase as the baby boom generation ages and millennial couples delay starting their own families.
In 2017, the overall number of births in the U.S. fell to 1987 levels, which reflected a 4 percent decrease in births to women in their 20s and early 30s. These statistics illustrate a trend of waiting to have children – the birth rate for women in their 40s was the only category with an increase.
Caring for a young child and a declining parent
The amount of time required to parent a young child or children can mean missed queues that aging parents may be struggling. It may come as a surprise with a diagnosis of dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is a broad diagnosis defined by a progressive decline in cognition and memory caused by brain disease. It can affect memory, reasoning, language, executive functions, visual perceptual process, social skills and interpersonal behavior. Declines in two of more of these categories must generally begin to interfere with relationships, activities and threaten dependence.
With a progressive disease, there is limited time to plan for incapacity. An immediate family meeting can start a candid discussion about what is known and unknown.
It is a good time to look at what estate planning parents have done. Is there an adequate power of attorney? Are medical directives up to date? An estate planning attorney can facilitate this review and assist with difficult conversations especially if siblings do not always communicate well. Scheduling this type of meeting allows everyone to prepare their concerns and questions beforehand.
Another benefit of consulting a local elder law attorney is that he or she can explain what resources exist within a community. Because progressive diseases affect everyone differently, certain resources may allow an aging loved one to stay in his or her home longer before needing an assisted living apartment or skilled nursing care. This can become a time to create a plan rather than only reacting to emergencies as they arise.