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Who do we love more - our children or our parents? That sometimes feels like a choice a caregiver has to make when caring for two different generations. My friend Jane's aged parents moved to town several years ago. Since then, I've watched Jane struggle with dividing her caregiving duties between her children and parents. Jane is a new member of what has been called the "sandwich generation",
those of us who are sandwiched between caring for senior parents and our own children. Recently, I received an SOS call from her, it was obvious she was at her wit's end. Jane knows I volunteer for an elderly home care service, and I was in her situation not long ago. When she came to me for advice on how to manage her stress, I was happy to help.
Through my volunteer work, I meet many others who are helping elderly parents and also have young children to care for at home. The experiences they've shared with me have helped me stay sane, and I was hopeful that by sharing our stories with Jane, they would help her as well.
My friend Sue had been caring for her senior parents and came home one afternoon to find her mother had suffered a fall. Luckily, she survived, but was hospitalized for a long stretch. In the meantime, the bills were piling up and her mother was unable to sign her social security checks or deposit them into her bank account. Sue wound up spending thousands of dollars to set up a guardianship.
I also heard quite a few complaints about the bill collecting boogeymen, who weren't compassionate about the delay due to court proceedings. It hadn't occurred to her that a power of attorney form could have avoided all of this expense and time in court, and that once her mother was too incapacitated to understand or sign it, it would be too late. She had been appointed her mother's agent in a limited financial power of attorney, but it wasn't durable, so it was useless when her mom was incapacitated.
When she asked me, 'What is a durable power of attorney?', I explained that the form must contain specific wording in order to remain effective after the principal's mental or physical incapacity or disability. Her frustration at not having chosen the right form and having it signed in time was understandable.