by Patricia LaCroix, contributing writer
We’ve all heard of the phrases that have been coined for different generations throughout the years. There’s the X Generation, there’s the Y Generation, and, of course, there are the Baby Boomers.
But have you ever heard of the “Sandwich Generation”? And could you possibly be a part of it?
What is the “Sandwich Generation”?
The Sandwich Generation is a fairly new term (first used in 1981) that describes the many people who are taking care of an aging parent (or both) and are also taking care of their own children who have not yet fully grown or who are still living at home. Hence the term sandwich: The people of this generation have found themselves “sandwiched” in between caring for their parents and for their children.
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts there will be over 70 million people over the age of 65 by the year 2030. That is double what the number is today. Furthermore, the Pew Research Center reported in May 2016 that — for the first time in 150 years — 18–34 year olds are now likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation. This statistic, combined with the ever-growing number of seniors, has helped to create a newly defined caregiving generation, where parents are now doing “double duty.”
In some cases, children born later in life to couples who are waiting longer and longer before starting a family can also create a “sandwich” situation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age of first-time mothers has increased, due to many women waiting until as late as their 40s to begin to have children. In this case, the children being cared for by a Sandwich Generation caregiver can be much younger and, also, in much more need of attention and assistance than an adult child.
And, in yet other cases, younger seniors who develop illnesses and diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, might require care from their children — even while those sons and daughters are still living with and caring for their own kids.
More caregiving, more stress
Whether its for our own children or for our aging parents, caregiving can be a stressful obligation. When, however, a person needs to care for both, the situation becomes even more stressful and challenging. A caregiver can feel like he or she is being pulled in two different directions. The priorities that have to be set might not always seem fair to the children or parents that have to take — at least for a moment — a backseat in care.
Obviously, the caregiver cannot give his or her attention to everyone at the same time. But the frustration in attempting to do so anyway can bring on feelings of depression and guilt for the caregivers. It can also create similar feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness to those being cared for. At its worst, sandwich caregiving can become neglectful to one of the cared-for parties, or possibly — at different times — both. It also requires a great deal of understanding and patience on everyone’s part.
What about the caregiver?
Lost in all of the care mentioned above for others is care for the caregiver. Already stressed out by the demands placed upon him or her, Sandwich Generation caregivers can suffer mentally and emotionally from their own frustration, anger, and grief. They can also suffer physically, due to lack of rest, lack of exercise, and lack of good nutrition. It’s very typical of caregivers to give of themselves and take care of others, before they do anything for themselves and their own well being. Often, these Sandwich Generation caregivers also have a career as well as their caregiving responsibilities. The combination of all these obligations can simply be too much for one’s mind and body.
What’s the solution for the Sandwich Generation?
How can the Sandwich Generation be helped? Clearly, these caregivers need time for themselves to regenerate their mind, body, and spirit. They also need out-and-out help. It’s difficult — if not impossible — for one or even two people to be able to care for so many other human beings at once.
Fortunately, agencies such as Care & Comfort at Home for Seniors and Veterans have been created specifically to come to the aid in the form of respite for many caregivers within the Sandwich Generation. We offer to take the place of these caregivers, and provide many of the same tasks:
- Personal care, including grooming, dressing, feeding, and toilet assistance
- Meal preparation
- Medication reminders
- Respite care
- Light housekeeping
With some of the burden of taking care of the older adults being lifted, the Sandwich Generation can spend more time focused on the care of their own children, or even on the care of themselves. Just a few hours of “me” time — or the regular relief of a task or two— can make a huge difference in the lives of these sandwiched caregivers.
Are you a Sandwich Generation caregiver?
Is this you? If so, you probably need help. The biggest thing is not to be afraid to ask for it. Care & Comfort at Home for Seniors and Veterans provides an in-home consultation at NO COST. You might be pleasantly surprised about what you can afford and what can be done to help you care for ALL of your family in the best possibly way — and care for yourself as well. Contact us today via our website or by calling 630-333-9262. We can help!