What is the Sandwich Generation?
The “Sandwich Generation” is a relatively new term, one you may or may not have heard of. This is the nickname for the generation of adults in their 30s and 40s who care for their aging parents while raising their own children.
One in eight Americans between 40-60 years old care for the needs of both their children and parents. Between seven and ten million adults care for their parents from a long distance. By the year 2030, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will double, reaching over 70 million citizens.
You may be a part of this generation and didn’t realize it had a name, or that there were so many others facing your situation. For many of those in the so-called Sandwich Generation, the dual responsibilities of caring for your parents and children are a necessary burden.
This isn’t just a problem for U.S. families, however. The phenomenon of the Sandwich Generation is a global issue facing many adults. For instance, in Australia, the term “sandwich carer” applies to nearly 2.6 unpaid caregivers. And in 2012, a UK report stated that almost 2.4 million people combine childcare with care for their aging parents.
Types of Sandwiches
According to Carol Abaya, an expert on this generation, there are three different categories of “sandwich” that these people fall in: traditional, club, and open-faced.
- Adults who fall in the “traditional” category are sandwiched between their aging parents who need assistance with care and helping their own children.
- A “club sandwich” are those adults between 40 and 60 who are stuck between aging parents, adult children, as well as their grandchildren. Or, it could be those between 20-40 who have young children of their own and are responsible for their aging parents and grandparents.
- “Open faced” is a term encompassing anyone involved in the care of the elderly.
This isn’t a problem that is going away any time soon. As the lifespan of humans continues to lengthen, 30-40-year-olds will increasingly be joined by seniors in their 60s who face having to take care of their parents.
Another factor is the rise of post-college adult children moving back home. A weak economy, a lack of jobs, and crippling debt from college tuition are just a few reasons why more college graduates are choosing to live at home.
Having an adult child back in the house may not be a full-time caregiving task, but it does cause a degree of financial strain if you have to support them while they live at home. [i]
Stresses and Responsibilities
But whether you’re welcoming your college grad back home or still raising young children, having to support your aging parents can exasperate your situation. It can be incredibly difficult to juggle caring for your parents, your children, and dealing with your own day-to-day challenges.
The financial burden and day-to-day duties of caring for both parties with little time left over for yourself can often be overwhelming. Medical costs, daily activities, supervision, and other concerns can take a toll on these caregivers, both emotionally and mentally.
As this group of people continues to grow larger, so does the stress and burden of being a member of the Sandwich Generation. Whether you realize it or not, the strain can take a mental, emotional, and mental toll. Some of the common things many Sandwich Generation members suffer from include:
- Caregiver burnout can instill feelings of depression, guilt, and isolation.
- Members of this generation may have trouble fulfilling the role of spouse, parent, and child while managing many other responsibilities, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
- Managing work, hobbies, relationships, and finding time for themselves can be difficult, if not downright impossible in some respects. Being stretched thin every day can cause psychological problems that many caregivers are unaware of. [ii]
Management and Coping Strategies
It seems daunting, but your situation is manageable. Your role as a caregiver doesn’t have to cause you to suffer. There are a growing amount of support groups and tactics to help you get control of your situation.
The first step is to make a daily or weekly plan. You may often feel as if there are never enough hours in the day. One of the best things you can do for yourself is organizing your day and prioritizing tasks. While this seems like an uphill battle, careful planning can do a lot to help you.
Secondly, address your parents’ finances. It can be uncomfortable at first, but this is necessary to give them the best care possible. Ask their parents several things, such as how much money they have and the cost of their monthly expenses. You should also ask yourself the same questions.
Chances are, as your parents’ caregiver, you will end up being responsible for their finances. This is one of the most difficult aspects of caring for aging parents. If it becomes overwhelming, it is worth contacting a financial planner or bookkeeper to help keep everything in order. The added support will help take away the burden of organizing loved ones’ finances, so you have more time in your day for other tasks.
The third thing you can do to manage stress, and possibly the most important, is practice self-care. Positive affirmations and self-talk do a lot for one’s emotional well-being, and scheduling time is a necessary part of being a caregiver.
Addressing your own needs and allowing your mind and body time to decompress will slow caregiver burnout. Even if it is for a short amount of time, engaging in a hobby, working out, or sitting in a quiet coffee shop could help. [iii]
Look for Outside Assistance
Lastly, there may come the point where you cannot keep up with your job, caring for your parents and children, and managing the dozens of other things going on in your life. At that point, it may be best to hire a caregiver from an agency like MeetCaregivers.
It is normal to feel guilty about hiring a caregiver. But, don’t let it stop you from discussing it with your loved one. It is important for you to realize that caregiving may be a job that requires 100% of your attention. Sometimes, it is not humanly possible.
A caregiver from the outside will give you more time to fulfill your other roles in life. Your loved one will still get exceptional care. A caregiver can give your parent their undivided attention and full support throughout the day.
MeetCaregivers is locally based in Boston, and we are a growing organization. However, we are still small enough to provide you with the complete care you and your loved one deserve. We can provide you with the resources you need that are pertinent to the Boston area.
If you’re looking for other resources for help in caregiving, Boston AARP’s website is another excellent source. Here, you can find information and assistance with caregiving. Meal delivery and resource guides are just a few of the things that you can see on their website.
Additionally, massoptions.org is a website that can assist you as well. The face of caregiving varies from family to family, and the challenges can change just as much. MassOptions has resources for Alzheimer’s patients, grandparents raising grandchildren, family support, and much more.
As a member of the sandwich generation, you are not alone. The most important thing to remember is to take care of yourself whenever you can. It is easy for the everyday stresses from caregiving to become too much. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help when caring for an aging parent. The process of watching your parents age is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task.
For more information, contact Meetcaregivers at 1-888-541-1136 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for more resources about caregivers? Our blog has plenty of information for you to read and learn about the topic.
[i] Sandwich generation. (2018, July 11). Retrieved March 13, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandwich_generation
[ii] The Sandwich Generation | What is the Sandwich Generation? (2018, August 16). Retrieved March 13, 2019, from https://www.seniorliving.org/caregiving/sandwich-generation/
[iii] Stringfellow, A. (n.d.). Caregiver 101: What is the Sandwich Generation? Retrieved March 13, 2019, from https://blog.caregiverhomes.com/sandwichgenerations