Sandwiched between the needs of elderly parents and dependent children, there’s a growing demographic facing a time when their parents and children will need them simultaneously.
The combination of an ageing population, delayed parenting and grown children staying at home longer has practical, financial and emotional consequences for those caught in the middle.
While there isn’t a one size fits all approach, there are three conversations that every family should have to help them deal with changes and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
The ‘what if’ conversation
The first conversation to have is all about ‘what ifs’ and it’s much easier to have this conversation before there’s a problem and there’s time to plan. It’s important to be clear about what you think and feel before initiating the conversation. Hidden fears and concerns can derail the conversation quickly if you’re not aware of them. The overarching principle of ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’ should be applied in every family conversation. As parents become infirm there may be a tendency to make decisions for them rather than with them. Scenarios around health care; their wishes around where they live; who should make financial and legal decisions for them and what kind of life-saving measures they desire – these are all topics that should be gently raised.
The ‘stocktake’ conversation
It’s important to make sure that all legal documents are up to date – do they have an up-to-date Will and appropriate Power of Attorney? People don’t always file things in easy-to-find places, so do you know where to find copies of these documents as well as other important information about their financial affairs such as bank accounts and tax information? Does the Power of Attorney deal with the person’s wishes when it comes to life-sustaining measures? During periods of high stress being clear about an elderly parent’s wishes can provide guidance for the whole family especially when a number of siblings are involved.
The ‘oxygen mask’ conversation
Just like in the case of an airline emergency, you are useless to your children and your parents if you don’t take care of yourself first. So, make sure your own house is in order. Are your own documents up-to-date should anything happen to you? Do you have a savings buffer in case you need to take time off work to care for elderly parents? How can you preserve your own assets for as long as possible and save towards your own retirement?