By Laurie E. Ohall, Board Certified Elder Law Attorney

As our parents get older and begin to lose their independence, many will turn to their adult children to help them navigate the complicated and costly world of long-term care.

For adult children already caring for young kids of their own, this new role of ‘caregiver’ can be a difficult one to assume. It’s no wonder this group of people is known as the ‘Sandwich Generation’ as they are literally ‘sandwiched’ between the pressures of raising a family, holding down a job and managing mom or dad’s growing medical and financial needs.

If you don’t make arrangements for financial and medical decisions within your family, the courts will do it for you, so create a plan in advance while your parents still have the chance to have a say in their care and decisions.

Elder law attorneys recommend five planning steps to help ensure aging parents are afforded the most protection, flexibility and financial security, while helping the adult child retain life balance and personal sanity:

Find Out If Your Parents Have An Estate Plan And Whether It’s Been Updated In The Past Five Years. The will, trust, powers of attorney and health care directives your parents created years ago may not reflect their current wishes and long-term care needs now.

Determine How You Will Pay for Long-Term Care. Nursing home and assisted living facilities can cost up to $8,000 a month (average cost of care for skilled nursing in Hillsborough County, is now $9,485). Medicare will not pick up the tab. In-home care can be equally burdensome. Medicaid may pay, provided you are hovering around the poverty level.

Get the Legal Authority You Need Now to Manage Their Affairs and Maintain Control. If your parents do not have powers of attorney or health care directives that allow you to communicate with doctors, access medical records and manage their financial affairs, it’s a good idea to create them now while mom or dad is still in good health.

Document Their End-of-Life Wishes. Thousands of families each year are torn apart trying to decide what their loved one ‘would have wanted’ in serious medical situations.

Get Organized Now to Avoid Last Minute Scrambling. Gather your parents’ important information now and create a ‘grab and go’ kit to avoid any confusion and delays in the event of a medical emergency.

By being proactive and planning for these issues in advance, you can help make sure your parents receive the care they need without worry or financial struggle.