This post has been on my mind for a while and is probably the hardest one for me to write. I am an only child who is an empty nester and still has both parents living. When my mom got sick last fall, it quickly became apparent that I would need to step in and help. But what is the best solution for all of us that are the sandwich generation?
I am a member of gen X. You might remember this blog post about raising millennials that I wrote a while back. We are at the age where our kids are growing older and needing us less and less. Yet increasingly, our generation also has aging parents that are still a part of the equation. I read this article in the Wall Street Journal and found it so interesting that many of us are dealing with the increasing challenges of aging parents and senior care. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. We are the generation “sandwiched” in the middle.
Let me start off by saying that I am GRATEFUL to have both my parents alive. I know many of you would give anything to still have your parents. The short version of the story is that my mom experienced some back pain that resulted in several trips to the emergency room without a correct definitive diagnosis. Finally, she experienced a catastrophic medical situation that went from emergency room to the ICU, the hospital, the rehab hospital, then surgery, more procedures, acute rehab and physical rehab. She missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and her birthday – all spent in a hospital facility of some sort. After four long months, mom finally came home. Her new normal is getting around with a walker and continued medical care with lots of appointments with a large team of doctors. Nevertheless, we are grateful that she is alive!
At some point I started discussing with dad how they would move forward. And that’s when it occurred to me that I would need to step in and help facilitate a plan. You see, my parents (like most) did not want to be a burden so they simply had no plan. They have owned their own home for many years and my dad was still mowing the grass with his lawn mower. The round trip to see the doctors was 50 miles and it just didn’t make sense to keep this up given that my mom would now heavily rely on dad for help. As I started exploring senior care options on my own, I was completely overwhelmed with information. Independent care, assisted care, memory care – I had no idea what it all meant or what they would need. It was like doing research on the best preschool for my children or figuring out which colleges to visit and to select. I felt like I was supposed to sign up somewhere and leave a deposit so that I didn’t miss the “prime” spot for my parents future. Much like putting your child on the list at “THE summer camp” as soon as you give birth and are sane enough to make a phone call. One day I was so frazzled that I posted a statement about my search on Facebook. The result was unbelievable! So many people left comments and advice that I knew I wasn’t alone in this journey.
My search was simplified by consulting with Paul Markowitz of Senior Living Specialist. Paul takes in all of your information and recommends senior living facilities for you to consider – for FREE. He selected five for me to visit and interview. This is almost like the private school selection process except you get to skip the testing part. Paul coached me on what to look for, when to go, what to ask and helped me cull through the information. I did all the initial visits, presented the facts to my parents and together we selected one facility for a second visit. I took my parents and husband with me for this round and let them make the final decision.
After a lot of consideration, a decision was made and we just completed my parents move to a wonderful independent care retirement community much closer to their doctors (and my family). This past weekend they let a specialist conduct an estate sale and they have just listed their home for sale. Little by little, we are getting them unpacked, organized and settled. Through this journey, there are several things I learned that might be helpful to others.
- Have a conversation with your parents about their senior living plans now. It’s best to take care of this before tragedy strikes and you are making decisions in an emotional state.
- Do your parents have a will? If not, encourage them to get one.
- Do you have power of attorney? Over their finances? Over their medical needs? They are two separate things and both need to be addressed. Especially if you are dealing with memory care issues.
- Find a senior care specialist in your area. Paul Markowitz with Senior Living Specialist serves the north Texas area and I highly recommend him! 214.929.5055
- Do your homework! This is not an easy decision and the senior care industry is a huge business.
- Make your parents a part of the process. At the end of the day, it’s their decision.
And yes, I know this is a lifestyle blog that focuses on fashion so I have linked my outfit for you below too. No worries, we’ll get back to the regular fluff tomorrow.
Thank you for letting me share my personal story with you. xoxo – Tanya