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Challenge faced by the sandwich generation

While expecting our third son, my wife asked our second born what he thought of his new role as middle child.

While expecting our third son, my wife asked our second born what he thought of his new role as middle child.

He replied: "I'll be the cream in the Oreo - everyone likes the cream!" Today's sandwich generation is also like the Oreo cookie, sandwiched between children who haven't quite flown the coop and parents who are perhaps beginning to need some help.

There are valuable life lessons to learn at this stage, it's a chance to teach the younger generation the value of family and to show gratitude to the older generation for all the work they did to get us to this stage. Having a positive mindset is critical.

Although the juggling act is not easy, there are ways to manage sandwich generation stress.

The key strategy is to know what to expect, to prepare financially and to take care of yourself as well as your loved ones, especially the other side of the "Oreo" - your children.

As parents age, they may need a range of supportive services, perhaps involving home renovations to facilitate safe movement throughout the household when reduced mobility or disability become an issue.

The next step may involve arranging home care, involving various health professionals, help with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, medication navigation and light housekeeping. For those over 65, 43 per cent will, at some point, require long-term care and this may also involve moving into a retirement residence or long term care community.

This is where the costs begin to mount.

The range of care options varies, but can run to more than $5,000 per month for in-home care or for facility care.

This can be a serious issue, especially where the senior is not quite ready to sell the family home yet.

Rather than worrying about this, I'd recommend a pro-active approach. Have a family meeting and begin talking openly about the issues, perhaps involving your financial advisors in the discussion.

It's important to take an inventory of financial resources and expectations should long term care support be required.

As part of the plan, consider the benefits of long term care insurance. In its simplest

form, this coverage provides a monthly cheque to offset the costs of in-home or facility care when a person cannot perform at least two of the six basic activities of daily living - i.e. bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, transferring position or maintaining continence.

It's important, of course, to be able to qualify for this coverage while you're still healthy, so make sure to raise the issue with your financial advisor.

As we face continued challenges in our public health care system, it's important to look at ways of planning independently for quality health care in the senior years.

The opinions expressed are those of Richard Vetter, BA, CFP, CLU, ChFC. Vetter is a certified financial planner and owner of WealthSmart Financial Group in Richmond (