Keep this ‘sandwich’ from becoming toast


We’ve all seen the bumper sticker that reads: “Be nice to your kids. They’ll choose your nursing home one day.”

My adult son sometimes looks at me out of the corner of his eye and jokingly threatens, “One of these days, Mom – I’m putting you in a home!”

A recent article by Cyril Tuohy, however, pointed out that just because someone reaches an advanced age doesn’t mean they automatically get shuttled off to a nursing home. In fact, although the elderly population in the U.S. continues to rise, the number of seniors living in nursing homes has dropped by 700,000 in 2012 from an all-time high of 2 million in 1989.

So if Grandma and Grandpa aren’t in a nursing home, who is taking care of them? Most likely, that care is being administered by family members, usually adult children who are juggling their own children and jobs.

Those adult children are often referred to as the “sandwich generation,” and I used to be one of them. I don’t regret any of the efforts that I made to try to keep the family “sandwich” from falling apart during that time, but I must admit nobody in our family was prepared to undertake those extra responsibilities – neither emotionally nor financially.

Across the United States, families shoulder the costs of long-term care to the tune of billions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. Americans spend about $725 billion a year on chronic illness, according to the SCAN Foundation.

Of that estimated $725 billion, $63 billion is spent by families in the form of out-of-pocket expenses and $450 billion worth of care is provided by families. Compare this to $64 billion spent annually by Medicare to cover chronic illness.

Here’s where you come in. We know that financial advisors help their clients plan for life’s big events, such as paying for their child’s education or funding their own retirement and long-term care. But have you considered that many of your clients may be faced with helping their own parents? Have you asked them what they plan to do when they are faced with the role of the “filling” in the “sandwich”?

A little bit of planning could go a long way in keeping the family “sandwich” from being sliced even thinner.





Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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