Many of us spend years identifying our goals, developing careers and building a family. We let these things take centre stage as we work hard to create the sort of life we want, often with the love and support of our own parents. If all goes well, you establish a career, a family and a home of your own – accomplishments that make your parents proud, even if you’re 30, 45 years old or more. Family is forever, after all – whether you like it or not!
As years go on, family dynamics evolve. Parents age and as their needs change, your relationship will as well. In many families, adult children eventually become caretakers of their parents, either physically, emotionally or financially (most often, in combination). This can be a difficult shift, both for the parents and the children involved. There may be specific challenges, such as selling a family home or dealing with medical issues. Some families experience the loss of a parent, while others are faced with the challenge of one parent having very different needs than the other. Oftentimes, you find yourself in the ‘sandwich generation’, as you help care for your parents while still caring for your own children. No matter how close you are to your parents, it’s a lot for anyone to cope with!
There are things you can do to make this stage of life easier on all involved. Here are some ways to best navigate the changing landscape of your family – we hope you’ll find them helpful.
Create an Open Dialogue
While you may know your parents very well, it’s impossible to know all of their wants and needs without asking them. Are they at the point of needing help, and do they want it? Do they maintain a fairly active lifestyle, or struggle with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as feeding, walking, bathing or dressing? Do they cherish their financial independence, or would they welcome help with decisions and paperwork? How is their cognitive state and emotional well-being? Do they want to remain in their current home, and if not, where do they see themselves living? Once you have a clear picture of their needs and wants, as well as their openness to receiving different types of help, you’ll be able to plan together.
Define Family Roles
If your parents are both living, one may be in better physical or mental health than the other. Often times, the ‘healthier’ parent ends up caring for their less-able spouse. This can place a lot of stress on the caretaking parent, who in turn may require support of their own. Ask your parents how you can help, but understand that some may be reluctant to accept caretaking from their children. Hiring a housekeeping or PSW service may be a good fit, if your parents need help but prefer an outside professional for more personal tasks.
Additionally, if you have siblings, it is wise to openly discuss roles such as physical caretaking, helping out with house or yard work, assisting with transportation, grocery shopping or paperwork, and determining matters of financial support, if need be.
Care & Respect
It’s easy to fall into a trap of ‘parenting your parents’, particularly if you’re in the throes of raising your own children. Make an effort to remember that your parents are autonomous adults who lived full lives and raised you. In most cases, particularly when they’re of sound mind, your parents will not want to be treated like children. Even if you’ve been assigned Power of Attorney for health or financial responsibilities, your role should remain that of a supportive, loving child. There are ways to be a caregiver while respecting existing family roles and ensuring that your parents will respected, not babied.
Even if you’re dedicated to being a hands-on help to your parents, caring for them can require a lot of time, money and emotional output. You may need to hire support for your parents in the form of nursing staff, housekeepers, meal delivery services or other assistance. Or, create a schedule with your siblings or other family members to ensure that your parents are cared for by a group of loved ones. Additionally, you may benefit in accepting support for yourself. Whether it’s emotional support from a spouse, friend or other family member or the help of a community support group, make sure you get what you need. Remember that no one can pour from an empty cup – caring for yourself means you’ll be better equipped to care for your parents and children, and still nurture your career and other interests.
It’s difficult to anticipate exactly what your aging parents will need or when they will need it, but Saikali Portfolio Management can help with the financial elements involved. We work with many families, business owners and medical professionals to manage complex personal and corporate financial needs. If you’d like to discuss wealth management options relating to your family situation, please give us a call – we’d be happy to offer a personalized, confidential recommendation.