This is not the Margaritaville, empty-nest lifestyle I was hoping for!

I had to smile when I read a recent article here in the Washington Post about the sandwich generation which included the line “This is not the Margaritaville, empty-nest lifestyle they were hoping for. Wasn’t this the time they were supposed to finally buy a Miata?”  I love Jimmy Buffett and margaritas and I still drive the 1991 Miata I bought when it was brand new (three weeks before my third child was born!).  But as I read further, my smile went away.  The sandwich generation refers to those who are now caring for elderly parents as well as un-launched kids.  As the article points out, it is an emotionally and physically draining job.

One thing it did not address was the cost of care.  In addition to the emotional and physical challenges, the financial burden is significant.  As advances in medical science allow people to live longer, many will require assisted living or skilled nursing care.  The cost of nursing homes in Florida ranges from $6,000 to $12,000 per month.  A home health aide is not much cheaper, at $19 per hour.  The bottom line is that if you have no money, Medicaid will pay.  If you have money, you pay until you have no money, then Medicaid will pay.  But there is no reason to become impoverished before applying for Medicaid.  Careful estate planning, done well in advance of the need, can allow the elderly to protect assets from the crushing costs of long term care.  By undertaking this planning in advance, with the help of an experienced and well trained elder law attorney, a parent can significantly reduce the stress and financial strain of the sandwich generation.