Parent Care

If parent care is on our horizon, we better get organized. Once we’ve taken a realistic look at our family care situation, its particular needs and any sandwich generation nuances, it’s best to continue being proactive. The more time we give ourselves to prepare, the better off everyone will be. The following items should top our "to do" list:

Checklist for Parent Care


Communicate with your parents while they’re most able to participate fully and rationally. How will they feel about parent care? Talk things through over a period of time rather than bombarding them all at once. Such topics are likely very sensitive for them, reminding them of their own mortality. Be open-ended with questions while at the same time bringing each one to some level of closure:

  • Are there still some personal goals in their life they hope to accomplish? What's on their "to do" list? How might those be achieved?
  • How long do they hope/want to continue living in their current home? How do they feel about living with other family members, if and when needed? How do they feel about housing alternatives, such as assisted living? How important is it to maintain proximity to close friends and other relatives?
  • How do they characterize their current health, and what do they anticipate? Are they satisfied with their current choice of doctors, and do we know whom they are?
  • What is their current financial status? Are they currently debt free? What is their monthly income vs. expenses? Have they invested in life insurance, annuities, mutual funds, or short term/long term care programs?
  • Are their legal affairs completed and up to date? Do they have a living trust and a will? How (and to whom) would they want their estate to ultimately be divided?


Talk to your children shortly after you’ve visited with your parents; tell them what you anticipate regarding elder care for their grandparents, and how they might be affected or called upon to assist. Try to resolve their questions or concerns ahead of time, assuring that the loving relationship you already have with them will remain unchanged.


Arm yourself with the authority needed to make decisions affecting the elder parent care. Doing so means you’ve already discussed the situation with your siblings and come to agreement as to how the primary care is to be handled and by whom. Albeit expensive, it’s probably best to have an attorney prepare a living trust and a will in compliance with state law, designating you as their legal representative with power of attorney to pay all household bills and care expenses, and to make life care decisions.


Line up your resources, so that they are readily available when needed. Besides your immediate family members, siblings and other relatives, identify any community or local government programs that offer medical, therapeutic, adult day care or recreational assistance. Does your situation qualify for any financial aid? Check to see if any faith-based organizations or churches might also provide any form of physical or financial assistance.


At the appropriate time, advise your workplace that your family circumstances may be changing, which on occasion could affect some of your work hours. If you anticipate a more significant impact, consult your supervisor to discuss potential options should they become necessary, such as telecommuting or a flextime work schedule, that could free up certain hours during the day to cover doctor trips and other care-related errands. Reducing your hours to part-time may or may not be a feasible option.


Vow to take care of yourself. Your own health is every bit as important as that of your elderly subject(s); if it fails for any reason, they would lose their trusted means of care. Arrange for back-up care to give yourself the breaks you need, and try to arrange your day to give yourself some downtime.


Go easy on yourself. Recognize from the start that nothing in the sandwich generation will be perfect, and that your success hinges on starting with the basics. It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone involved, and as time goes by it will become clear what things can and should be changed on your to do list.

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