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Taking care of two generations? Organizational tips for parents in the middle

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Updated: 12/13/2012 12:28 pm

(BPT) - Whether it's a disagreement among friends, a conflict at work or a face-off between family members, no one likes to be in the middle. Yet that's exactly where millions of Americans live, these days: between two generations of loved ones that need their time and attention.

About 44 percent of people age 45 to 55 have at least one living parent and one minor child (younger than 21), according to an AARP report. U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that millions of American households now include multiple generations - grandparents, their adult children and grandchildren. And many more people care for an aging parent living in a different state or have a child who requires frequent medical attention or ongoing care.

“Taking care of multiple generations - keeping everyone up to date, tracking medications or key contacts, to managing personal records or private family information - can be a challenge for anyone,” says Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of CareZone, a private organizational site for families. “Help is available, though, for those that want it. Innovation can simplify your life, and give you more time to care for yourself and other priorities.”

Schwartz offers some advice for parents and families looking for help when they care for loved ones.

* First and foremost, look for privacy - Technology can help save time and energy, but look for tools without ads, and with strong security. Ads imply your information is being sold to marketers. Look for commitments from the companies and products you use that assure you're in charge, and only you control who has access to information you manage about your children or parents.

* Share responsibilities - Trying to manage everything alone is a recipe for exhaustion, disappointment and even depression, especially if you're taking care of a chronically ill loved one or infirm older parent. Engage other loved ones for help. CareZone  users can designate “helpers” for each person they're taking care of, and share important information about that person with helpers. Importantly, you're always in control.

* Create a master list - Having bits and pieces of important information - like phone numbers for doctors, lawyers and accountants, on-line accounts and passwords, etc. - scattered throughout your home makes it difficult to put your hands on information when you need it. Create a master list that incorporates vital information, and make sure it's easily accessible to those that require it in an emergency. There's no reason you have to be a single point of failure when it comes to information access. CareZone provides a shareable contact list, alongside tools to help manage private notes, and to upload private scans, documents and files.

* Gather documents in one place - From therapist's reports and immunization records, to living wills and financial statements, you probably need to keep track of folders full of important information. Organizing hard copies of everything can be difficult - and it takes up a lot of space in your home. If you choose an online organizational tool, look for one that is ad-free and secure, where family members can manage private information associated with a child or older parent whom they're caring for.

“Taking care of those we love can be hard work, but it doesn't have to be an overwhelming burden,” Schwartz says. “Getting and staying organized, and sharing responsibilities with family and helpers can help make caring for a parent, spouse, sibling or child easier - and more rewarding."

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