The Perfect Sandwich

In recent years, the humble sandwich has come to stand not just for a delicious lunchtime snack, but for an entire generation of people: the so-called ‘sandwich generation’.  

Age Space’s Annabel James runs through the top tips to help ‘generation sandwich’ prepare for later life. In recent years, the humble sandwich has come to stand not just for a delicious lunchtime snack, but for an entire generation of people: the so-called ‘sandwich generation’. That’s because a growing number of 40-60-year-olds have found themselves sandwiched between the competing demands of caring both for their children and for their elderly relatives.

It’s really no surprise that this group has emerged: in the UK we have not just extended life, but there is also growing economic pressure on young adults, meaning more and more have to either live at home or rely increasingly on the bank of mum and dad. All exacerbated by a National Health Service that’s unable to cope and a social care system that’s yet to catch up.

Of course, it isn’t all negative. Making a sandwich may be about squeezing the filling, but it’s also about binding everything together. And although this situation has brought many challenges, it has also bound the different generations of UK families closer together than they have been for a long time.

We can’t ignore the negatives though. Many of us will soon find ourselves in the ‘sandwich generation’, and there are things we can all do to prepare ourselves and our families. To that end, members of Age Space, (the online community for people supporting elderly parents or relatives), have offered their top tips to help you navigate your way through this potentially tricky stage of life.

Many of us don’t talk about the issues surrounding later life with our families – we avoid the subject where we can. The result is that many things go unspoken and unplanned, which creates even more stress and confusion when a crisis occurs.

So, our first tip is to talk sooner and more openly about plans and expectations for the future with parents and adult children. Put together financial and legal plans; think about how and where you would like to live in later life; and let everyone know what (and where) the plans are so there are as few surprises as possible when they need to be implemented.

There are a few key questions to ask when putting a plan together:

1. Have you established powers of attorney?

Everyone should have power of attorney at the stage of life when they have responsibilities. So, when you talk to your parents about establishing power of attorney for them, why not consider making arrangements for yourself?

2. Have considered an advanced healthcare directive or ‘living will’?

For medical matters, it can be extremely useful to have your wishes made clear in advance. With an advanced healthcare directive or ‘living will’, you can make clear what medical choices you want made in advance – in case you’re not able to make them yourself.

3. Have you sorted your will?

Have you written your will? You may not be able to take it with you, but that’s not a good reason to leave your family and HMRC to sort your affairs out after you’ve gone.

4. Have you considered the “what if” scenarios?

While everyone arrives at later life in their own way, there are some fundamental conversations you should have ahead of time: what type of care do you want, where do you want it, and how is it going to be funded?

It’s also particularly important to work out the logistics of later life within families, so you can decide who does what. If there are siblings involved, or other family members, organising between yourselves can share the weight of responsibility – particularly in a crisis.

Beyond planning and administration, Age Space members have also spoken about celebrating the advent of the sandwich generation. After all, it’s the result of strides in medical and social care giving people longer and healthier lives – and of more women working and having children later.

Each generation contributes to the sandwich – from the basics, such as grandparents doing the babysitting to teenage grandchildren offering tech support – to the fundamentals of life experiences and knowledge. Challenging maybe, but worth savouring.

Annabel James Co-founder of agespace.org

agespace.org is the online community for anyone anxious about or caring for an elderly parent or relative. A friendly and frank conversation space at its heart, Age Space also provides advice and guidance on everything to do with  elderly care. Age Space was founded by Annabel James and Ruth Darrah in 2015.

 

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