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Around The City: With aging parents on one end, children on the other, how does the Sandwich Generation cope?

Last Updated Jul 30, 2019 at 5:28 am PST

From left to right: Anand Sharma, Financial Planner, Wealth Management from G&F Financial, B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, Kim Nowitsky, community activist and founder of the group Richmond Schools Stand United, and NEWS 1130's Amanda Wawryk and John Ackermann. (Marcy Mailloux)

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – NEWS 1130 and CityNews Vancouver have teamed up with G&F Financial for Around The City, a series of town hall discussions that explore some of the hot button issues impacting our region.

It is an opportunity to join the conversation, as a panel of experts tackles the issues that matter most to you. In the third Around The City, we look at how the Sandwich Generation, which often finds itself “stuck in the middle,” is coping as its members deal with aging parents on one end, and children on the other.

From high gas prices, a housing crisis, and overall increases to cost of living, many Metro Vancouverites have already found themselves struggling to get by. So what happens when they’re responsible for their children as well as their aging parents?

Watch the full town hall

Around the City town hall: Stuck in the middle with you

In our third edition of Around the City, we ask how the sandwich generation is coping with aging parents on one end and children on the other. Join our panel of experts as we discuss this hot-button issue impacting our region. If you have a question, leave it in the comments or tweet us @NEWS1130. We’ll be live from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Posted by NEWS 1130 on Monday, July 29, 2019

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie has over 20 years of experience working with seniors in home care, licensed care, and in the community, and has served on a number of national and provincial boards and commissions.

She says it’s no secret that most of us want to be able to live in our own homes for as long as we can – and the same is true for seniors.

“…I think we should be supporting that goal as much as possible,” Mackenzie says. “However, I think we do have to recognize the burden that that can – not always – but can place on others in order to have mom and dad be able to stay at home. You need to have somebody in your life who can help you.”

As people age, she says it’s important for families to not suffer “undue financial stress.” This is something, she says, the government can and should help with.

“That is one area where the government can play a role, and I think we have a lot of programs in place,” Mackenzie explains. “I think some people might be surprised at how much health care you have to pay for when you get to be 90 years of age.”

The bills can add up, but each situation is circumstantial. While each person’s situation is different, Mackenzie says the financial stress is one aspect the government can help with through proper policy and programs.

To the credit of the provincial government, Mackenzie says this “file” is getting some attention. She’s hopeful things will improve, but notes we do lag behind.

“That’s true of many things – we react rather than proactively act,” she says. “This is but one area where, I think, we’ve clearly lagged.”

Kim Nowitsky, a community activist and founder of Richmond Schools Stand United, is a member of the Sandwich Generation and knows all too well what kind of stress can come with worrying about family. Her father downsized a number of years ago and now lives in Langley – but she and her family live in Richmond.

“Now that he’s getting on in age, I worry about what’s going to happen in the future,” she says. “It is on my mind. I also lost my mom two years ago, and so I was her caregiver for a while.”

On the other side of things, she also needs to ensure her two children have the care they need – and that, too, doesn’t come cheap or easy.

“It’s very difficult to secure a childcare spot for a school-aged child,” Nowitsky explains. “My husband had to sleep outside to try and sign our son up for after-school care, before and after-school care. And there was only, like, three spots available for that.”

She believes there isn’t enough quality care available children around the region, and says opening up more spaces and offering quality programs would help take much of the stress off.

Having aging parents on one end and children on the other can also raise the question of how to split your time.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer as to how to make that decision.

“There is not straight answer for it, I guess you’ve got to go by the day as it goes,” Anand Sharma, a financial planner with G&F Financial, explains. “I found that over time, it’ll become like a routine – you’ll find your place where how much time you’re going to give to your children, to your parents.”

Sharma has more than 20 years of experience working with credit union members, helping them discover their financial goals, and creating a roadmap to achieve them. He, too, is part of the Sandwich Generation, and says his parents live in his family’s home.

“I think as parents, they understand – they should understand,” he adds.

Sharma says it’s important to have conversations about the future – and the present – with your aging parents in order to be as prepared as possible.

Part of that conversation includes budgeting, finding out what your parents’ wishes are, and keeping the dialogue open.

“As they’re aging, they’re also becoming more prone to things like scams,” Sharma adds.

Help, planning, and coping

Not all conversations – for example, moving an aging parent into a care home — can be easy, however. The important thing to remember, each of the panellists notes, is to ask for help and support when you need it.

“There is help out there,” Mackenzie says. “A good place to always start is with your health authority and ask what is there available to support me as a family caregiver of my mom and dad. Health authorities also license the daycares and can tell you what is there to help you with your kids – because maybe that’s where you need the help in order to be helpful with your parents.”

She also says it’s important to recognize your own limits, and not be too hard on yourself if you’re unable to do what you thought you could.

“And to really remember the gift of time, and that learning how to cope and how to appreciate and take each moment as it comes and share those with your children, I think can be extremely rewarding for people,” Mackenzie adds.

Nowitzky echoes how vital help can be.

“It’s not worth it to take it all on yourself,” she says. “Definitely reach out, ask for help. Access the services in your community and the province, but also ask for help from your family members and your friends.”

Another point she makes is for people to plan ahead, something Sharma knows a thing or two about.

“For our generation, just the three Ps – the plan, plan, and plan,” he explains. “There’s three generations here; the parents, yourself, your children. You’ve got to have a checklist for each of them.”

He says saving money ahead of time can go a long way, and adds it’s never too early to start planning for your financial future.

“With children, you want to make sure that they understand money,” Sharma says. “When it comes to your parents, make sure that you understand their money, where they are, right? When it comes to yourself, you need to start saving money. That’s basically where I think we can make our lives a little bit easier, if possible.”