Ten things people will say when they hear you live next door to your parents

Post written by Kay

  1. Whoa!
  2. Wow, I could never do that
  3. My mom would drive my spouse crazy
  4. My dad is too set in his ways for that to work
  5. Free babysitting!
  6. My parents would butt in all the time
  7. My parents would spoil my kids
  8. My brother/sister/aunt/cousin/therapist would have a lot to say about that
  9. I would have to drink a lot more
  10. Good luck!

Here is the one thing you wish people would say instead:

  1. That’s a big responsibility. Tell me more.


What is a Sandwich Family?

Post written by Kay.

My definition of a Sandwich Family is: a family that bears primary responsibility for at least three generations simultaneously. That responsibility could be daily living and care, financial, health and wellness, legal, or a combination of all of those.

In my family, this means my husband, our school-age children, and I live next door to my mother. So my husband and I are the “filling” in our particular sandwich.

But your sandwich could look very different from ours. Perhaps the older generation in your family lives far away or in a retirement community, and you have financial and healthcare power of attorney responsibilities for them, while your children are in college. Maybe you have always been the daily companion for a beloved aunt who lives across town but you don’t have any legal responsibility for her, you are divorced and your children are still quite young. It could be that you are retired and share your home with your adult children and your grandchildren. Or maybe, like a friend of mine, you are currently rearranging your life so you can move your spouse and family halfway across the world to take care of your aging father.

In short, being a Sandwich Family is complicated, stressful, difficult, and hard to understand if you don’t live in it (and often hard to understand even when you do live in it), but it can also be rewarding, at times lovely, meaningful, and filled with acts of devotion and love. Basically, Sandwich Families are just like any other daily family, but with an extra generation layered on top.

What does your Sandwich Family look like? Leave a comment below!

Post photo: pixzolo on unsplash

Peace of Mind Paperwork

We never could have anticipated that my dad, Harv, would die so suddenly in March. Since then, I think we all have become closer. But we have had to go through a lot of grief to get here, which I will write about another time. I still don’t think I’m quite up to writing about that emotional journey, so I will have to save that for another time.


But one of the things we did NOT have to go through was worry about paperwork and legal issues like wills, disposition of bank accounts and how property would change hands. When we began this journey as the Sandwich Family, we very quickly found an expert on elder financial planning to guide us through the legalities and technicalities of our situation. The legal structure and paperwork we had already established as a family was one of the greatest blessings we could have hoped for when Dad was struck ill so swiftly.

If you have not begun to plan for your family’s legal disposition and security, there is no time to start like now. Find a financial planner who is qualified to deal with the complexities of a multigenerational family. Check references to make sure you have found someone who is capable of guiding you, and establish a trusting relationship with him or her or the firm as soon as possible. Give your family the peace of mind that comes from sorting out your affairs, and do it today.

Leave a comment: Do you have a financial planner? What have your experiences working with him or her been like?

Post written by Kay.


Seeing Gray Workforce as a Business Opportunity

senior at computer (2)

As the “graying” of the American workforce surges, there will undoubtedly be an increasing demand for workplace services related to aging generations. After all, if: “10,000 Baby Boomers a day will turn 65 – every single day between now and the year 2030,” (Taylor 2014, 6), doesn’t that also mean 10,000 potential new customers reach that age every day?

“The United States is projected to age significantly over this period, with 20 percent of its population age 65 and over by 2030,” said Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch. “Changes in the age structure of the US population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape.” (US Census Bureau, May 14, 2014 news release)

One interesting business venture capitalizing on this idea is the “Work Reimagined Pledge,” an initiative of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which allows companies to pledge to the following:

“Working with AARP, participating companies have signed a pledge to level the playing field for experienced workers. Work Reimagined is a national effort to help employers solve their current and future staffing challenges and direct job seekers to employers that value and are hiring experienced workers. Employers who sign the Pledge agree that they have:

·       Openness to the value of mature workers
·       Nondiscriminatory HR policies
·       Immediate hiring needs (at the time of Pledge signature)” (“Work Reimagined Pledge,” 2014, American Association of Retired Persons)

In return, the AARP links to jobs posted by these companies and provides free public relations.

Another pioneering program is MIT’s AgeLab, which was founded in 1999 to address the changing needs of the aging population through innovative thinking, technology and programs. AgeLab embraces the evolving demands of older people, seeing an exciting challenge where others see headaches and problems. (AgeLab, referenced June 2014)

Is providing services to meet the needs of companies with older workers an untapped but potentially lucrative business opportunity? Identifying problem behaviors and helping generations communicate more effectively can very possibly make the workplace more productive. Wellness services, such as wellness programs, could be well-received by companies in general, and could be targeted to older workers as one aspect of service. Products designed with the aging worker in mind, such as ergonomic desks, software to make digital reading more comfortable, and impact-absorbing floor mats, will make the workplace more welcoming for workers of all ages. Even specialized training to help workers adopt new technologies more quickly could be targeted towards the older worker while benefiting the entire workforce.



AgeLab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Referenced June 2014. http://agelab.mit.edu/about-agelab)

Taylor, Paul. April 10, 2014. “The NEXT America,” Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/next-america/

“Fueled by Aging Baby Boomers, Nation’s Older Population to Nearly Double, Census Bureau Reports.” News Release, May 14, 2014. US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/aging_population/cb14-84.html

“The Work Reimagined Pledge.” American Association of Retired Persons. Referenced June, 2014. http://workreimagined.aarp.org/participating-companies

Post written by Kay. This article is an experiment in new ways of writing for this blog – more journalistic, lighter on opinion. Like it? Leave a comment to let us know!

The Guilts

The Henry Chronicles muses on a classic sandwich family dilemma: guilt. Beautifully written, as always.

The Henry Chronicles

Tommy handprint and booties

Two weeks ago, a younger friend of mine called to ask my advice about achieving work-life balance. She has a three-year-old, is in the middle of a challenging pregnancy and is less than a year into a new leadership position. How did I do it, she asked.

I didn’t, I told her. I oscillated between roles rather than achieving balance. Like her, I was pregnant when I took a challenging new job — and I, too, had medical complications. My boss approved the normal six week maternity leave. When I came back to work, my infant daughter still cried much of the day and night. (The only thing that seemed to sooth her, during these colicky periods, was a bouncy swaying back and forth reminiscent of low impact aerobics, which I had continued during pregnancy.) I pumped breast milk sitting on the john in the bathroom. But my daughter soon…

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Social Security Confusion

Social_security_cardMy mother has been getting the run-around about claiming my father’s monthly Social Security check now that he is gone. We understand that the system is plagued with fraud and that she might need to prove her identity (and even show proof of their 50-year marriage). We understand that sometimes systems as large as this one can get backed up. Yet we were baffled as to what exactly was standing in the way of what certainly must be a run-of-the-mill request.

Yesterday, my mother announced that she had finally gotten to the bottom of the problem. It seems that she has been having trouble because she worked and has her own Social Security account. She has to file extra paperwork to claim my father’s benefits instead of her own (which is her right according to the law).

This doesn’t seem so shocking in and of itself, except that neither a funeral director nor a savvy financial planner knew about this rule. And a call to Social Security didn’t reveal this answer, so Mom had to go to the Social Security office herself to investigate in person. And, she still can’t get it resolved until she has a phone appointment with Social Security – in 3 weeks.

I don’t know why I have been surprised and upset by this. I should know better than to expect a system as large as Social Security to run smoothly. Yet, I keep feeling as if my grieving mother should not have to put up with such shenanigans. I feel as if she should be treated with respect, dignity, and maybe even a little sympathy. I feel as if our system should recognize that we have all been through a terribly stressful and traumatic event and should treat us all with a little humanity.

Leave a comment: what financial transitions have surprised you and your transitioning family?

Post written by Kay.


Plans to make and share – the daughter’s perspective


Looking back on the past three years, we made a lot of plans to help us better communicate and attend to one another’s needs and wishes as a Sandwich Family. Honestly, it has taken a lot of effort to put all of these plans in place, but it has been completely worth the trouble. During my dad’s last few days, we did not have to waste time worrying about what he would have wanted or what was going to happen next. Instead, we had the luxury of focusing on saying goodbye to him.

Here are a few of the kinds of plans Sandwich Families (and, let’s be honest, ALL families) should seriously consider making and sharing. I’ll be writing more about each of these in coming weeks, so stay tuned:

  • Estate plan: what do you want to happen to all of your stuff when you pass away? The ramifications of NOT having an estate plan (wills and trusts fall into this category) can be extremely serious and vary widely from state to state – and from family to family. If you do nothing else, make a will. Just do it. Your family might be angry with you about some of the decisions you make, but they will be your decisions.
  • Living will: this includes your wishes about responding to a medical crisis, whether or not you want health care practitioners to use extraordinary measures to extend your life, and who gets to make these hard decisions on your behalf. This is scary stuff, but it can be so much worse to leave your loved ones wondering what you would have wanted.
  • Budgets: are simple to prepare and can be very revealing. Drawing up even a rudimentary budget can provide valuable information to financial planners, attorneys, advocates and family alike. The very process of preparing a budget can show patterns and habits, and even possibly raise an alert if a scam or theft (including identity theft) has occurred.
  • Passwords and access to documents: who can get to your accounts and files in an emergency? Are your passwords, accounts and physical documents secure?
  • Benefits: are your benefits in order? Benefits documentation includes distribution of earnings from retirement plans and pensions, wishes about allocation of retirement savings and access to veterans benefits. This also includes your plan to pay for health care, whether it is provided by an employer or through a government program.
  • Life care wishes: where and how do you want to live? Will you live in a nursing home if needed? Do you want to buy long-term care insurance?
  • End-of-life plan: this can be a painful conversation, but so much better to have it than to be left bitterly confused and anxious during a health crisis or the earliest days of loss. Go to http://theconversationproject.org/ for excellent resources on this topic.  (We wrote about this topic a few weeks ago.)
  • Philanthropy: you won’t see this on many lists out there, but I am a firm believer in clearly stating your wishes related to how you want to support your favorite charities over time. Make a priority list so that your family can help you continue to give to the charities and religious institutions you cherish.

Leave a reply: what plans have you made, and which ones are you putting off for later?


Post written by Kay.

Healthy Communications with Parents

According to a study from Vitalsmarts, 95% of those who had bad relationships with a parent acquired serious diseases. Yikes! Read the study results here: VitalSmarts research on communicating with parents. (Note: this is not a paid endorsement. VitalSmarts provides excellent tools for learning to overcome communication issues of all kinds.)

Leave a comment: do you feel you have open communications with your parents and/or grown children? What steps have you taken to improve these critical relationships?

Resource: MIT’s AgeLab

Design for aging seems to be a vast wilderness of possibilities. Consider the ever-growing list of life needs for an aging population that are just now beginning to be addressed through intentional design: visibility of fonts, living spaces, medicine dispensers, counseling and retirement planning, just to name a very few.

One enterprise dedicated to searching for and designing solutions to the challenges of aging is MIT’s AgeLab. According to the AgeLab website, “Aging requires new thinking. AgeLab works with businesses, governments and non-profits worldwide, to develop new ideas to improve the quality of life of older people and those who care for them.”

We are excited to learn more about this endeavor and hope to come across many more as we continue to educate ourselves about options for multigenerational families. Do you have any resources about aging or multigenerational living you’d like to share? If so, leave a comment or send an email to kaysandwichfamily at outlook dot com.

“Have you had THE conversation?”

No, not that conversation. THAT conversation – the one about end-of-life wishes. According to The Conversation Project, “60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is ‘extremely important'”, yet “56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.”  To be sure, it is a tough conversation to have.

My dad had the conversation with my mom and each of his kids many times. When he passed away suddenly last month, we all understood so very clearly what decisions he wanted us to make on his behalf. We did not bicker, complain, or feel the need to argue a case – we just signed the paperwork and said our sad goodbyes.

Now that Dad is gone, we are grieving, but we are not left second-guessing our decisions. We honored Dad’s wishes. We loved him and we owed him nothing less than that.

If you have not had this important conversation with your family, it is never too late to start. You can find a conversation starter kit here. And please talk to us! Leave a comment or send an email (kaysandwichfamily at outlook dot com) and let us know how your conversations are coming along.



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