Bal­anc­ing car­ing for kids, ag­ing par­ents

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Jill Sch­lesinger Con­tact Jill Sch­lesinger, se­nior busi­ness an­a­lyst for CBS News, at askjill@ Jil­lonMoney.com.

Ac­cord­ing to Pew Re­search, nearly half (47 per­cent) 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. The so-called “Sand­wich Gen­er­a­tion” is busy jug­gling the fi­nan­cial and phys­i­cal needs of their par­ents and young kids or adult chil­dren.

I have writ­ten about some of the fi­nan­cial is­sues sur­round­ing adult chil­dren mov­ing back home, spend­ing too much on col­lege in­stead of sav­ing for re­tire­ment, and se­nior fraud, all of which are im­por­tant. But this col­umn is de­voted to the less ob­vi­ous but equally gru­el­ing emo­tional price that those in the Sand­wich Gen­er­a­tion are paying. The fol­low­ing are tips that I have as­sem­bled from those who have found ways to man­age the process with­out go­ing crazy.

• Iden­tify who is do­ing what. You may be lucky enough to have fam­ily mem­bers who are as­sist­ing you, but it is rare that tasks are split equally, even among cou­ples them­selves. Try not to fall into the trap of “keep­ing score” of who is do­ing what. That said, just be­cause one has a more re­stric­tive work sched­ule than an­other, it doesn’t mean ev­ery­thing has to fall on the shoul­ders of the more flex­i­ble one. Even if you are not con­tribut­ing equally, some­thing is bet­ter than noth­ing, so try to de­ter­mine what each of you is will­ing to do.

• Get or­ga­nized and cre­ate a sched­ule. Once you un­der­stand ev­ery­one’s avail­abil­ity and will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate, es­tab­lish pri­or­i­ties, get or­ga­nized and cre­ate a monthly sched­ule with enough lead time to fill in gaps for con­flicts that arise. For ex­am­ple, as most par­ents hap­pily packed up the kids to de­liver them to col­lege, Sand­wich par­ents had to fig­ure out who would cover their own par­ents. Would it be a si­b­ling, a neigh­bor or maybe a care­taker? And for those who have younger chil­dren, there seems to be an end­less num­ber of school-re­lated events early in the aca­demic year. It’s bad enough that many oc­cur dur­ing work hours, but when you add in the myr­iad of needs for ag­ing par­ents, your days can fill up quickly.

• Man­age the process. The eas­i­est way to keep track of the sched­ule is to cre­ate a mas­ter doc­u­ment, to which all in­ter­ested par­ties have ac­cess. Google Docs is a great re­source to help you man­age the process. That said, once you have the sched­ule, some­thing un­ex­pected will in­evitably pop up, which is why Amy Goyer, au­thor of AARP’s “Jug­gling Life, Work and Care­giv­ing,” notes that you need to be able to shift and “repri­or­i­tize as cir­cum­stances change.”

• Hire help. If your bud­get al­lows, hire care­givers who can help. For the kids, that might mean a few ex­tra hours of babysit­ting while you stop in and see your folks. For your par­ents, there are some fan­tas­tic re­sources for se­nior care, rang­ing from aides who can as­sist with the ba­sics to li­censed pro­fes­sion­als who pro­vide skilled care. Con­sult the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Area Agen­cies on Ag­ing, which can help you find re­sources in your area. Many rely on pri­vate agen­cies rather than word of mouth be­cause, although the costs are higher, agen­cies usu­ally con­duct back­ground checks on their em­ploy­ees and carry in­sur­ance if some­thing goes wrong.

• Be­ware of burnout. Even if the kids are do­ing well in school and the folks are do­ing fine, you are spend­ing an in­or­di­nate amount of emo­tional and men­tal en­ergy keep­ing things to­gether. Care­giv­ing can de­plete you, which is why you need to push aside any feel­ings of guilt and try to carve out time for ex­er­cise, sleep or even just a walk with a friend.

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