Tim and Marjorie Brewster are a Club Sandwich family. Club Sandwich couples are those in their 50s and 60s who are struggling with the responsibilities of caring, not only for children and possibly grandchildren, but for their aging parents. Like many of their counterparts, the Brewsters experience extreme stress from the overwhelming tasks they face daily.

The National Care Planning Council, an organization formed to educate and assist seniors and their families in planning adequately for these final years, has found that it is typical for seniors and their families “to ignore the need for seeking expert advice and planning.” Families wait until a crisis, such as a fall, inability to pay for medical costs, hospitalization or sudden illness, prompts planning. By then it is often too late to do anything productive to affect the outcome.

Tim and Marjorie’s parents had failed to adequately prepare financially for living into their late eighties, possibly their nineties. The Brewsters themselves are worried that their own retirement savings will be inadequate because they have robbed these resources to assist their children with college expenses. They realize that, due to increasing longevity and need for graduate study beyond college for many employment opportunities in the future, it is highly likely that their children and grandchildren will be Club Sandwich families as well. The Brewsters want to insure that their children and grandchildren do not make the mistakes they and their parents have made with regard to planning for their final years.

The National Care Planning Council and its Texas affiliate, Care Planning Council of Texas (CPTx) are resources which can assist families like the Brewsters in achieving their goal.

Often families whose incomes have not kept up with inflation at the same time face rising medical costs. Too often families try to stretch resources by resorting to credit card debt which, through high interest rates, can compound the problem. To develop strategies for coping with these financial pressures, the Care Planning Council provides planning resources for families to utilize before the problem is acute.

It is essential for families to prepare well in advance for the failing health of elderly family members. Often a stroke, heart attack or cancer can create a sudden and unexpected health crisis. Families who have mapped out a strategy for handling the crises - when and if - it occurs are less likely to find the event overwhelming in financial and caregiving areas.

Families often are in denial about the potential for dementia. This is counterproductive, especially in light of the fact that the risk of dementia over the age of 80 is 50%. That means that every family with a loved one approaching 80 needs to develop a detailed plan outlining how the family will cope with the added financial and caretaking issues involved.

If the Brewsters’ children and grandchildren are to avoid many of the stresses of being a Club Sandwich, they need to implement in their twenties and thirties an estate plan with asset preservation strategies, establish targeted strategies to meet specific needs of the seniors and the children in the family, including the design and implementation of a formal final years plan. The National Care Planning Council and the Care Planning Council of Texas can help. The Texas Council can be located at www.texascare.net.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain. She may be contacted by phone at 254.797.0211 or by email at swreed2@yahoo.com.