Lisa often finds herself feeling caught between caring for her children and her elder mother.
The challenges of being there for her children when they need her can conflict with assuming care of her elder mother. And Lisa feels the stress and strains of trying to do “everything.”
She’s not alone...
Who coined the term “sandwich generation”, and when?
In 1981 social worker Dorothy Miller first used the term “sandwich generation” to describe women in their thirties and forties caring for both young children and their elderly parents.
Well, the term is now a nickname for the Baby Boomer generation. With women having children later in their careers and increased longevity, the demographic now “sandwiched” are anywhere between 40 and 65 years old. Some of the oldest are already out of the sandwich generation with their children, Gen X, replacing them.
What are the primary issues facing the sandwich generation?
- Caring for aging parents. This can come with many challenges including resentment or guilt associated with caregiving. Family dynamics also play an important role in who takes care of what and when. Old sibling rivalries can add to the challenges.
If one or more of the siblings do not live locally, that adds additional stress to the local sibling(s) who need to shoulder the entire caregiving burden. A family meeting can allow all parties to voice their concerns and opinions and to iron out any potential conflict.
- Being there for your child. Being in the sandwich generation requires a delicate balancing act of administering to the needs of one’s aging parents while not neglecting one’s own family. For school age children, ideally the parent is at home to welcome the child when he arrives home from school. And not miss those treasured moments, like a school performance or soccer game. Of course, sometimes it is necessary and OK for another trusted adult to be there for the child when the parent can’t be, or other safe arrangements for after school care are made.
- Financial support. A big part of the Sandwich Generation dilemma is that it can really hurt your pocketbook. Young adults tend to launch their careers and life itself at a later age and may continue to live in their parents home. Many also return home when their relationship or marriage breaks up.
Add onto all this the high cost of long-term care for elder parents who may not have the means to support themselves, and even the more affluent will be understandably stressed. Indeed, according to a recent Pew poll about 47% of adults in their forties and fifties have a parent 65 or older and are either raising young children or supporting a grown child financially.
- Long-term Care planning. At some point the decision needs to be made either to place mom or dad into an assisted living or nursing facility, or that they should age in place. Long-term care – and who is going to pay for it – is unquestionably one of the major issues that the Sandwich Generation needs to address.
With the high cost of assisted living and nursing home care and if relying only on savings, the average American family will have their savings gone in a very short period of time. This leaves a large percent of seniors with long-term care Medicaid as their only safety net. Often the guidance of a professional Medicaid planning company may be needed to help the family through this stressful transition.
What Good Comes Out of Being the Sandwich generation?
Hey, it’s not all bad! You can find the experience and challenge of dual caregiving highly rewarding for yourself as well as your children.
Family caregivers can find that connecting with their elder parent in this altruistic form of giving heals old, seemingly forgotten wounds, transforming them into love and forgiveness. Many find caregiving to be very spiritual, contributing to their deep sense of purpose.
Children of these caregivers have cited this caregiving period as the time they had the opportunity to forge everlasting bonds of love and affection with their grandparents and many cherished memories were then created.
All in all, the Sandwich Generation is rising to the challenge of donning multiple “hats” simultaneously. Awareness of the issues that it presents can be the first step in transforming the experience from burden to blessing.
When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed Where Do You Start?
Well, in our 9-week program Mastering Caregiving: Fundamentals for Caregivers we give you step-by-step solutions. Topics include Transforming Stress, Balancing Life and Caregiving, Mastering Change and Caregiver Health and Wellness.
All topics that any caregiver — especially anyone giving care to more than one person — needs.
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What Are the Ups and Downs of the Sandwich Generation?