Written by Guest Writer
Setting the scene
Jean is in her early 60’s working hard in a busy professional career and has retirement on her mind. But that’s not all that was on her mind …
Jean’s husband is about the same age and thinking of retirement as well. They have two young adult children who have just started their working lives and both are still cozied up in the family home with no departure date in sight. In her “spare time” Jean does most of the jobs around the house and generally keeps her household together.
Jean’s Mum is in her mid-80’s and lives in her own home across town. Sadly, Jean’s Dad suddenly passed away a few years back. Jean visits her Mum regularly and she is starting to get concerned about how her Mum is managing alone at home. Jean has a brother and a sister who aren’t living close by and therefore don’t visit their Mum anywhere near as often as Jean does, instead relying on news from Jean about how Mum is going.
Sound familiar? This scenario plays out in many households across Australia. Welcome to the “sandwich (or “caught in the middle”) generation” … where your “daily balancing act” is to look after your own children and your parents … oh and don’t forget about looking after yourself along the way. The job is often highly time-consuming, emotionally straining and stressful.
What typically happens
As much as Jean has tried to talk to her Mum about getting some “extra” help, the discussion often starts and ends with words spoken such as “I don’t want to talk about it”, “I’m fine”, “it’s not me yet”, “you’re so busy and I didn’t want to bother you” … to name a few. Have you heard this before?
Exasperated, Jean (literally) struggles on. And often the struggle continues until there is some form of crisis. Then things have to happen … and seemingly fast.
It’s best to talk … but that’s often not easy
How does Jean get everyone on-board to sit down and have a meaningful conversation? There are many articles written about asking parents what they need or want both now and into the future. Sometimes these strategies work … and sometimes they go nowhere.
Getting everyone around the dinner table who needs to be there and talking about things often produces great outcomes. Putting a written plan together about what’s important and who does what and when is a big contributing success factor. But, many Australians don’t want to do this … and even fewer actually do it (until a crisis occurs of course). Logistically, actually doing something like this often proves difficult.
If Jean could only do one thing right now … what would it be? Do this …
Jean’s Mum had always been in charge of her family finances – from when she was married until now. She kept great records of everything (and that means “everything” without throwing “anything” away). However, in recent times, Jean had noticed things weren’t being kept as organised by her Mum – she would often see documents sitting on the dinner table and around the house and found boxes (and boxes … and boxes) of all types of paperwork stored in cupboards and drawers.
Of all the conversations that families can and should have, finances are never the easiest. So, Jean went out and purchased (for only a few dollars) an A4 plastic hardcover folder with plastic inserts and gave it to her Mum. She suggested that Mum keep all her latest statements, such as cash and term deposit accounts, superannuation and age pension, shareholdings, house and content insurance, rates, telephone and electricity bills; even copies of her latest legal documents such as her Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, etc in the folder. If one of these statements arrives – Mum simply had to take out the previous statement and replace it with the new statement. Mum could store or file the old statement wherever she wanted to. Mum then simply had to put the folder in a place where she knew to find it and let Jean know where that was as well … just in case.
Periodically, when Jean visited her Mum, she would ask where the folder was and how it was going. She would then have a look through it “over a cuppa” to make sure things were being kept and stored properly and update it with her Mum if needed.
No deep and meaningful discussions about money and finances … Jean just knew where the folder was if she needed to find it and it was a great starting point for her if she ever needed to step in and stand up to run her Mum’s financial affairs.
There would never be any time-consuming, and stressful, “search” through Mum’s home for these important documents.
The folder also served as a useful “conversation starter” about how things were going for her Mum and what she might want now, or need in the future. And this conversation led to the next conversation and the next conversation … in a relaxed and casual environment.
How Family Aged Care Advocates fit in …
That’s where Family Aged Care Advocates can step in. We provide guidance and support to help families identify the relevant options to help you make informed decisions to get the best care outcomes for the people you love and care for most. We’re independent aged care specialists only interested in the right outcomes for Jean and her Mum, and your family.
Among the many jobs that Jean has in her busy life as a professional career woman, wife, Mum, peace-keeper and carer – she was also the “chief finance officer and record keeper” at her own home. She must have missed the family meeting for that job nomination as well.
Jean was so impressed with the idea for her Mum that she also implemented the same “folder” system in her own household and told her husband and children where to find the folder if she wasn’t around (just in case for whatever reason).