Caught in the Middle?
Strategies for the Sandwich Generation
If you’re in your 40’s or 50’s and caring for both your children and your parents, welcome to the sandwich generation. About one-third of middle-aged Canadians are part of this so-called sandwich generation and more are expected to join their ranks.
Feeling Time-Crunched? Stressed? Sandwiched?
The juggling act isn’t east. When a U.S. study asked 1,400 social workers about the sandwich generation, they said most people in this demographic group underestimate the financial, emotional and physical toll of providing care for aging relatives.
The good news is that there are ways to manage sandwich generation stress. The best strategies are to know what to expect, to prepare financially and to take care of yourself as well as your loved ones.
Strategies to help your parents: What can you expect?
As your parents get older, they may need a range of supportive services. Initially, you may need to do minor home renovations – for example, installing ramps or additional railings – to accommodate reduced mobility or physical disability. The next step may be arranging home care which can include visits from health care professionals, help with bathing and dressing, meal preparation and light housekeeping. For those over 65, 43% will, at some point in their remaining years, require long term care. If your parents can’t live in their own home anymore, they may need to move into a retirement residence or long term care home.
What will it cost?
Home care costs vary widely, depending on how much support someone needs. A typical “low level of care” scenario could cost less than $1,000 monthly for weekday meals, meal supervision, bathing and dressing. A “high level of care” scenario could add up to nearly $5,000 monthly for in-home meal preparation, personal care, skilled nursing, laundry and house cleaning.
Long term care costs vary by province. As an example, in Ontario, as of July 1, 2010, basic accommodation cost $1,619.08 monthly, while a semi-private room cost $1,862.41 and a private room cost $2,166.58. Retirement residences may be an intermediate step before someone needs the full range of care offered in a long term care home. The provincial average cost in Ontario for a private room is 2,930 per month (ranging from $1,329 to $7,750). The average cost for a one-bedroom suite is $3727.50 per month (ranging from $2,400 to $9,000).
It’s important to talk to your parents to find out if they have the financial resources to pay for supportive services. Several products can help them prepare for these costs including critical illness insurance and long term care insurance. In addition, developing a sustainable retirement income plan by using Product Allocation can help add peace of mind that income will last throughout your parents retirement years.
Strategies to help your children: What can you expect?
When it’s time for your children to head off to post-secondary education, you’ll probably be proud and a little anxious about your newly empty nest. Your pocketbook will also feel the pinch as bills start arriving for tuition, textbooks and (if your children go away to school) accommodation and living expenses.
What will it cost?
The Canadian government estimates that full-time students paid $14,500 to cover post-secondary expenses in the 2003-2004 academic year – or $58,000 to pay for a four-year program. Full-time tuition alone can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000, depending on the CEGEP, trade school, college or university.
Families can prepare to meet these costs by saving in a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) and/or a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). You may expect you children to pitch in by working summers or part-time during the school year. Your children may also be eligible for grants, bursaries, scholarships and loans that can help to offset costs. Make sure they always have some short-term savings on hand to cover unexpected expenses.
The Education Cost Calculator at www.canlearn.ca (search for “Education Cost Calculator”) can help you work out your children’s likely post-secondary costs.
File multiple tax returns
In the year of death, four tax returns can potentially be filed. A claim can be made for some personal tax credits, such as the basic personal amount, on each of the returns filed, effectively multiplying the number of credits claimed. In addition, your estate benefits from the lower graduated tax rates more than once in the year of death.
Strategies to help you
While you’re helping your parents and children, don’t neglect your own needs. After all, you have to stay healthy and happy in order to provide care. Here are some tips:
By balancing your own needs with the needs of your parents and children, you’ll be in a better position to give loved ones your full attention and deliver the care they require.
Delegate household duties – explain to family members you need them to help out more while you’re taking care of your parents, and consider hiring people to clean, rake and shovel snow.
Ramp down your work hours – depending on your employer, you may be able to arrange to work from home, take some time off to care for a sick parent or temporarily switch to part-time hours.
Use community resources – your area may have volunteers who provide companionship to the elderly and can even accompany your parents to medical appointments.
Set aside time each day (it can be as little as 15 minutes) to do something you enjoy – for example, go for a leisurely walk in a local park or read a magazine from beginning to end in a cozy coffee shop.
Schedule a weekly “date night” with your spouse so you have time to reconnect, discuss stressful situations and unwind together.