Caregiving has always been a part of life. Parents throughout history have provided care for their children. Spouses, children, and other loved ones have always faced the work of caring for aging loved ones. Part of being human is making sure that your loved ones receive the care they need at the moments in life when they need it.
Caregiving isn’t something new, but we’re moving into a period of time in which a significant portion of the population is faced with especially trying caregiving responsibilities due to a few cultural factors converging at once.
Many adults within a certain age range are finding themselves overwhelmed with the caregiving needs coming at them from at least two directions. These are the members of the sandwich generation.
What is the sandwich generation?
The sandwich generation is a term popularly used to describe people who find themselves needing to provide caregiving for both aging parents and young children at the same time. They’re sandwiched between two different generations of people that require their care.
People stuck in the middle of a caregiving sandwich aren’t new, but due to demographic trends, the proportion of middle-aged people who are currently affected by this issue is especially large. The Pew Foundation has found that about half of people in their 40s and 50s can be considered part of the sandwich generation.
Does that sound like you?
You’re probably a member of the sandwich generation if:
- You’re between the ages of 40 and 59.
- Your parents are starting to need help with ADLs.
- Your kids are still young enough to live at home, or still need financial support even they’re old enough to live outside the home.
If you are a part of the sandwich generation, then you may be feeling a lot of stress and pressure and be wondering why your plight doesn’t get much attention in media narratives. Even if you don’t hear a lot of talk on the subject, you’re very much not alone.
Many people in this country are trying to figure out how to be good caregivers to multiple loved ones at once, and finding that the work, stress, and emotional toll is unsustainable.
What can you do about it?
For members of the sandwich generation, there are no easy solutions, but there are tips and resources you can take advantage of to help you manage the burden:
- Know the resources available – Look into local support groups for caregivers and research your nearby senior care options to see if you can find a solution to help take off some of the load. If your parents aren’t at the point of needing full-time care, a part-time in-home caregiver or adult day care could be a useful supplement to the work you do.
- Put your parents to work helping out with the kids and vice versa. Seniors and kids have some distinct benefits to offer each other. And there’s an obvious benefit they can offer you: giving you a break. Your grandparents can keep an eye on the kids when you need to go out or need a break, and your kids can help keep your grandparents entertained and active. When taking care of both of them gets to be too much for you, see if they can’t take a turn taking care of each other.
- Make sure to make time to take care of yourself too. Stress is unhealthy. It’s not just ok to give yourself a break, it’s important to your own well being. Figure out what you need to do to take time for yourself and minimize the stress you have to deal with.
The sandwich generation is facing the same struggles and difficulties of many generations that have come before, but they’re having to balance more of it at once than has typically be required in the past. Know that it’s not just you. It really is hard.
Trying to do more than you’re capable of won’t benefit anybody. Give yourself a break for not being able to do everything and seek out the resources you need to fill in the gap.