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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Stuck in the Middle with You

The new rules of the "sandwich generation" can mean making decisions for your aging parents and meeting new demands on your time.

Planning Ahead continued...

“It’s so much easier to have these discussions before there is a consequence. It’s easier to talk about health when everybody’s healthy,” says Barbara Friesner, a generational coach and the founder of AgeWise Living ( “Then you can start working things out, so that they are fair and livable for everyone.”

There are several separate documents that will make it much easier for you to act on your aging parents’ behalf when taking care of them:

  • A durable power of attorney, authorizing someone to sign checks, pay bills and make financial decisions on their behalf.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care, authorizing someone to make medical decisions.
  • A living will.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers free advanced care and financial planning resources online at

It’s not an easy thing to bring up, admits Carol Bradley Bursack, author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “It can sound like you’re waiting for them to die. But you can try leading into it by talking about yourself: ‘You know, I’m only 35, but I could be in a car accident or something. I’m going to fill out a living will.’”

Another important issue to explore with your aging parents, before there’s a need: long-term care insurance. According to the AARP, about 12 million elderly people will need long-term care by 2020, but only about 30% of people over 45 have long-term care insurance.

Less than a quarter of people surveyed came within a reasonable estimate of the annual cost of assisted living; they were even more off base when it came to the costs of nursing homes. The average monthly cost of long-term care for older people with chronic conditions and disabilities is about $3000 (as of summer 2007). A good place to start when looking into long-term care insurance is on the Medicare web site:

A Place for Mom or Dad

Make sure that when you talk over the future with your parents, you include a frank, open discussion of future living arrangements. One of the biggest conundrums for sandwich generation adults caring for aging parents is the question of where parents should live. In their own homes? With their children? In an assisted living facility or nursing home? Each choice comes with costs -- emotional and financial -- and trade-offs.

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