By Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq.
The generation known as the baby boomers consists of those of us born between 1946 and 1964. At 76 million, we comprise 28 percent of the entire population. Boomers, currently between the ages of 50 and 68, are mostly identified with coming of age during the 1960s, claiming to be the generation that was going to change the world. Boomers are certainly changing the way we look at retirement.
Unlike the generation before us, the retiring baby boomers will change the face of retirement in several ways. Many will choose to retire later to recoup some of the big losses in their retirement nest eggs during the financial downturn in years just before they should have or planned to retire. Others may retire but postpone plans to relocate to warmer climates due to their responsibility to care for aging parents. Still others are retiring from jobs to be available to provide childcare to their young grandchildren.
Some retirees in the caretaker role may be caring for both parents and grandchildren. And few may even be caring for sick spouses in that mix. The role of caretaker, whether planned or unanticipated, can be stressful and take its toll on the boomer who had other plans for retirement.
As elderlaw and estate planning attorneys, most of our clients are in the middle class. Many are caring for an aging spouse, aging parents or grandchildren. When asked, most who are lucky enough to still have their parents say they plan to care for them at home, rather than place them in a facility. When asked if plans are in place for assumption of this caretaker role, the answer often is “no.”
The physical aspect of caretaking can cause physical stress on the baby boomer – lifting, transferring, assisting to dress – can take a physical toll on the caretaker who maybe is not as strong as he or she was in his or her younger years. Caring for the elderly whose conditions may not improve, but rather worsen over time, may cause depression in the boomer caretaker, whose former social life may also be curtailed by the time demands of being the primary caretaker.
Although caregiving for parents does go hand in hand with these challenges, most who take on the role are happy that they did and would do it again.
Brady and Marshak, LLP, lawyers recommend that the caretaker have the necessary legal documents in place – health care proxy to step in and make medical decisions if needed, as well as Power of Attorney to be named legal representative for all financial transactions. Having these documents completed with the assistance of a lawyer can serve to avoid the expense and delays of guardianship should the elderly person become incompetent to make decisions or manage his or her affairs.
The boomers should also have these documents in place to make things easier for their own children to care for them down the road. Financial planning and legal planning with trusts should be done to protect as much of the seniors’ assets as possible so that if formal care is needed (home care or nursing home care), hard-earned life savings or the value of the home (equity) will not be depleted in paying for that care.
Baby boomers caring for grandchildren should consider asking the children’s parents for written authority for emergency care for the grandchildren. Having this type of document in place can prevent delays in emergency treatment for minor children in the event of an accident or illness when their parents aren’t immediately available.
Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq., is a partner in the law firm of Brady & Marshak, LLP,156-36 Crossbay Blvd., Howard Beach, New York, 11414. She can be reached at 718-738-8500.