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Parenting, Aging, and the American Dream

Parenting, Aging, and the American Dream

The Baby Boomers, who have birth years from 1946 to 1964, were promised “The American Dream,” and all they had to do to achieve it was set their sights on a goal and it would be theirs. This produced a generation of workaholics, highly driven and competitive individuals who challenged authority and birthed numerous entrepreneurial businesses eventually changing the landscape of American business.

Due to the increased average life expectancy for Americans, Baby Boomers are also the first generation that is managing the care of their parents while still raising or supporting their children.

Research shows the family member that provides care for an elderly parent today is normally a female between the age of 45 and 56. They are still parenting children, maintaining a career and trying to support their parents. This is a formidable task but one that is quite worthy because of God's word.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" Exodus 20:12.

The greatest concern I see in the eyes of every elderly person is how they will maintain their independence while making sure they do not outlive their financial resources. Most families struggle as they enter this phase of life. Parents are fighting to keep their independence and the child does not know when or how to lovingly shift into this phase.

The children have trouble as they still see their parents the way they were many years before. They struggle with the reduction of cognitive and physical abilities that come to aging parents. Likewise, parents still visualize their children as teenagers and believe they don't have the ability to perform these necessary duties. To help you understand this journey, I am including four steps to provide you a map for the road ahead.

1. Cognitive Clarity. Clarity of mind is our ability to understand and finish projects, tasks and goals.  Cognitive clarity can be affected by stress, trauma, physical conditioning and age. As cognitive clarity wanes, a person's ability to reason and understand does also. They are no longer the same person they once were. My experience is that adult children become highly frustrated when they try to reason with a cognitively impaired parent about changes or choices. They still expect the parent to reason and react like before. What needs to happen is for the adult child to realize they are now the parent. Since the parent no longer has the ability to make rational choices consistently, the roles must be switched. The adult child must step into the role of parent with patience and love. The parent becomes the child to be protected and helped in making life choices.

2. Ability to Perform. There are processes that can be implemented that allow adult children to provide for a parent when needs arise. Legal documents include Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney are mandatory. These documents can give the child the ability to step in as your parent's agent when necessary to make financial and health care decisions. Upon the parent's signature, it gives the child the power immediately or after they have become incapacitated. Either way will give the family a back-up plan of support. If possible, meet with the parent's advisors (attorney, financial planner, and CPA) to better understand how to support their goals and plans. Establish a budget and help them monitor paying bills. As long as possible, encourage them to sign the checks before mailing, so the parent still feels in control.

3. Outsourcing. As more changes begin effecting the aging parent,  look for sources that can become part of the support team to provide safety and healthy environment. There are senior care services that can provide in-home care or even custodial care as needed. As an alternative if the budget allows, new options are available in senior housing. Due to the immense wave in the Baby Boomers marching toward their final phase of life, retirement villages are being built all over the country. Many provide progressive care beginning with independent living, when necessary moving to assisted living and ending with full-scale nursing care to assist seniors as their needs change. Research what is available in your community as well as what resources are available to help your family successfully complete this journey.

4. Recharging. The only way to effectively complete the journey of parenting on both fronts is to recharge. If your gas tank becomes totally empty, someone will need to take care of you and everyone suffers. Find a friend, clergy, counselor or support group that can encourage, pray, laugh and cry with you along the way. Set weekly time for you to work out, read or just take a nap. Engage other family members to help either with time or money to help with the parent. Remember you cannot give what you don't have, so being recharged is mandatory!

In order to finish well, embrace three words: acceptance, honor and respect. It is important that you accept the fact that this is a phase we will all journey through as we enter the elderly years of life. Showing honor and respect is mandatory as the parent’s dignity should be placed first with a loving spirit of protection and driven by the goal to provide the highest quality of life possible.

Consider this final phase as the natural progression of the patriarch or matriarch passing the torch for your family tree. Finish the journey well as your children are watching your actions and they will continue the family’s legacy in the future.

Guy Hatcher – known as The Legacy Guy – has spent his lifetime helping families plan their legacy. His new book, Your Future Reflection: How to Leave a Legacy Beyond Money, is now available at Follow him on twitter @guyhatcher or go to

Publication date: April 8, 2014