Surviving the Sandwich Generation

October 23, 2019

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you may be thinking of sandwich in terms of creative uses for turkey leftovers. Did you know that there is a whole “Sandwich Generation” out there that you may be a part of and has absolutely nothing to do with meat or bread? What exactly is this new breadless meatless “Sandwich Generation?”

The Sandwich Generation is a term used to describe adults who have become multi-generational caregivers tending to their aging parents while supporting their own children. Usually, this applies to people in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, and includes all those caught between the demands of child rearing in addition to providing care to elderly parents. Despite the tremendous pressures faced by those with these dual obligations, millions of Americans have assumed this admirable role. Statistics prove that Sandwich Generation caregivers are an extraordinary group of people. Yet even these extraordinary caregivers are at risk of neglecting their own self-care while attempting to help everyone else. The best way to take care of yourself is by preparing early for any situation that life may throw at you.

How Did the Sandwich Generation Come to Life?

This new generation of caregivers stems from increasing life expectancy rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the life expectancy in the United States has increased from 47-76 years of age, namely due to amazing strides in healthcare and technology. Since human beings are living longer, the 21st Century has produced a large population of older adults, creating a need for more caregivers. Another reason stems from delayed parenting, namely the new norm in today’s society of couples starting families later in life, in their mid-to late-30s.

The Sandwich Generation Demographics

Caring for an aging parent is an immense challenge, and one of the most profound tasks to take on. The same can be said about raising children. The Sandwich Generation is full of people from many different backgrounds and ethnicities, but there are trends. So, who are the people that fill this heroic role?

  • 47% of adults in their 40s – 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).
  • 19% of the members are younger than 40 and 10% are 60 and older.
  • Men and women are both members, although caregivers are predominantly women.
  • Married adults are more likely than unmarried adults to be sandwiched between their children and parents: 36% of those who are married fall into this group and 13% of those who are unmarried fall into this group.
  • More affluent adults or those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more are more likely to be part of the Sandwich Generation. 43% are those with incomes of $100,000 or greater, compared to 25% of those with incomes between $30,000-$100,000 a year.
  • Hispanics are the biggest ethnic population in the Sandwich Generation: 31% of Hispanic adults have a parent age 65 or older and a dependent child; whereas approximately 24% of Caucasians and 21% of African Americans are Sandwich Generation caregivers.

Surviving the Sandwich Generation

There are many emotions that go along with being a Sandwich Generation caregiver such as stress, financial burden and physical burnout. Furthermore, Sandwich Generation members often see a negative impact on their own careers and finances as resources get stretched thin. It is crucial that Sandwich Generation caregivers remember to take care of themselves first; otherwise, they are not useful to the ones that need them most. To minimize stress and anxiety during this difficult time in life, financial planning and estate planning is crucial. Below are some critical thinking points to prevent yourself from being caught off guard:

  1. Do Not Wait Until You are “Old” to Consult an Estate Planning Attorney.

    A common misconception is that you can wait until you get older and sicker to address the key issues of estate planning. Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball as to when they will become sick, have an accident, or pass away. If you don’t have plans in place before this happens, it could be too late for you to use tools to protect yourself and your family. There are many steps that you should take while you or your aging parents still have full capacity. This includes making an incapacity plan in case of a medical emergency. You also want to make a Medicaid plan for your parents long before they need medical care in a nursing home. This is because Medicaid may be the only source of payment for nursing home services and you may be ineligible to qualify without some advanced planning.

  2. Create a Last Will and Testament or Revocable Trust.

    A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is used to designate the beneficiaries who should receive your assets upon your death. Wills allow you to appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to what you wrote in the Will.

    Revocable Trusts, also known as Living Trusts, are preferable to Wills especially when a person owns real estate in their name. Essentially, the Trust is created, and assets are transferred into the Trust. Upon your death, all assets in the Trust pass to your beneficiaries through the Trust, and not through the arduous court process called “probate.” Upon inheriting any monies or assets through a Trust, the beneficiary enjoys financial protection from future creditors, divorces, and bankruptcy. Trusts are private documents that, unlike Wills, do not become a part of the public record.

    If you don’t have a Will or Revocable Trust in place, now is the time to visit an estate planning attorney and draw one up. If you already have these documents, do they reflect your most recent wishes? If you recently had a major qualifying life event such as a marriage, divorce, death or birth of a family member, you likely need to update your documents. It is imperative that your documents reflect your current wishes by naming the desired beneficiaries, proper trusted individuals to carry out these wishes, and most importantly, that all your assets are properly titled or that your Trust is funded properly with your assets.

  3. Guardianship and Care of your Minor Children

    If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), it is imperative that you (and your spouse) name a guardian to physically and financially take care of your children if something happens to you. This designation can be done within your Will or in a separate document called a “Declaration Naming Pre-Need Guardian for Minor.” Putting your wishes in writing reduces lawsuits that arise over custody (often involving both sets of grandparents) in cases of your sudden or unexpected death.

  4. Create a Durable Power of Attorney

    A Durable Power of Attorney is a crucial legal document that functions while you are alive and allows you to select a person (the “agent”) to “step into your shoes” in case of your sudden mental or physical incapacity. The agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions and conduct transactions on your behalf. The Power of Attorney document ends when a person passes away. Note that if you created this document prior to October of 2011, it is time to update it as the laws in Florida have changed.

  5. Create a Health Care Surrogate & Living Will

    A Health Care Surrogate & Living Will, also known as a Health Care Proxy, allows you to name someone (the “agent”) that will make health care decisions for you in case you can no longer make them yourself. Such decisions include consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different medical facility.

  6. Review How Assets are Titled and Beneficiary Designations

    In addition to having an iron-clad estate plan, make sure you review all the beneficiary designations on your accounts and policies as well as your parents’ accounts and policies. This includes bank accounts, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, etc. Additionally, check that the title on your home, other real estate properties, cars and watercraft vehicles are correct as well.

Final Thoughts

The best way to cope with the emotional and financial obligations facing the Sandwich Generation is for all parties involved to plan ahead. This includes the caregivers, aging parents, children, (and anyone else stuck in the middle). Proactive planning with the help of experienced estate planning attorneys will help provide peace of mind. Contact OC Estate & Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or for a free consultation to help you deal with the balancing act of the “new normal”. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.