Let’s face it — even on the best of days, life is hectic. The job, the commute, kids’ lunches and sports, the dog needs walking and the car has a flat. And recently, a new wrinkle: you’re worried about your parents.
If this sounds like your family, you’re not alone. You’re part of a growing number of Canadians who form part of the “Sandwich Generation” – those juggling both the needs of their children and aging parents at the same time. With a little planning, you can make this transition into a new phase of your life a little bit easier.
The Sandwich Generation will only grow in coming years, as the Baby Boomers age. By 2031, almost one-in-four Canadians could be 65 or older. And with many families postponing having children until their late 30s, the stage is set for even more households with increased responsibilities that include both child and elder care.
Stats Canada reports that upwards of 700,000 people are caring for their kids and parents, with 75 per cent of the care being provided by those aged 45 and 64. Three-quarters of those caregivers also work or run a business, and nearly one-third have children at home who are under 18 years old.
A province-wide poll recently conducted by Insights West reveals nine in 10 British Columbians who are part of the Sandwich Generation are struggling with providing for both the needs of their kids and aging parents. A full 64 per cent of respondents say they have difficulty visiting their aging parents due to work or busy schedules. Sixty per cent have trouble keeping informed about the health status of a parent, and more than half are concerned about the costs associated with caring for a parent.
Reducing stress levels is key for members of the Sandwich Generation and proactive planning can go a long way. Here are a two suggestions:
1. Money matters
Speak with a financial advisor about both your own and your parents’ financial situations, looking at assets, income sources, RRSPs, living expenses and debt. Make sure everyone has adequate life and disability insurance, and consider long-term care insurance for your folks. The cost of residential home care in B.C. ranges from $3,000 to $8,000 a month. Talk about what would happen if you or your parents could no longer make financial decisions and consider drafting living wills that include a power of attorney.
For your children, make sure they are learning sound money-management skills and you are taking advantage of government tax credits for sports, arts and child care. Invest in a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). Over the plan’s life, you can contribute up to $50,000 per child for their post-secondary education while receiving another $7,200 in government grant money. And it all grows tax free.
2. Home safe home
If you’d like to make your parents’ home safer, the provincial government can often help offset the costs, offering a renovation tax credit for seniors. Those eligible can claim taxes for modifications such as installing walk-in bathtubs and raised toilets, putting in non-slip flooring, adding handrails or grab bars, or general renovation costs that improve access.
Once the home is physically set up as safely as can be, consider adding an extra layer of protection for your parents with a personal monitoring system. The AlarmCare Home Medical Alert system has a two-way voice monitoring system that provides your loved one with instant access to trained operators who can contact a family member, neighbour or emergency personnel when needed. Once installed, the user can speak to someone 24/7 through the home-based unit, a wearable pendant or a wristband.
And if your parent is active or loves to travel, AlarmCare Go is a portable version of its medical alert system and can be used both inside and outside the home. A wearable pendant features GPS location tracking, live two-way voice communication and automatic fall detection – everywhere the person goes.