The “Sandwich Generation” is the term given to adults between the ages of roughly 40-55 who are caring for both a living parent age 65 or older, as well as their own children, either under 18 or a grown child living at home.
The Sandwich Generation was caused because, thanks to advances in medical care and better nutrition, lifespans today are much longer than they were in generations past. An increasing number of middle-aged men and women have parents who now require expensive nursing home or in-home care, and need assistance with caregiving and financial obligations. At the same time, because of delaying parenthood, these families also have minor children living at home, or in some cases, adult children who have moved back home because of economic hardships that require financial assistance.
Challenges of Balance
There are many struggles that accompany the Sandwich Generation, particularly financial burden, stress, and burnout. Many members of the Sandwich Generation experience financial struggles due to the cost of caring for their aging parents, while also paying for college educations for their children, leading to decreased savings for their own retirement. Many Sandwich Generation members also often see a negative impact on their careers, as they must often scale back or even leave their jobs to help with caregiving for aging parents.
It’s important to set boundaries on financial spending, budgeting precisely how much can be spent on both children and aging parents. Be sure to consult a financial adviser to discuss tax benefits, medical care deductions, cashing out investments, and insurance claims.
Self-Care is Important
Sandwich Generation members also often experience high levels of stress, leading to issues with anxiety, depression and burnout. Many Sandwich generation caregivers say they don’t have enough time to accomplish all of their responsibilities and admit that personal care and relaxation are often the first things on their to-do lists to go. However, self-care and stress management need to be a priority for Sandwich Generation members, and it’s important to experience downtime by getting help from other family members, hiring professional caregivers and taking regular breaks from being “on duty.”
Learning to integrate self-care practices into daily routines can help Sandwich Generation members stay healthy, both emotionally and physically. It’s particularly important to pay attention to good nutrition, have a nurturing emotional outlet, and get adequate daily exercise. Good self-care will ensure that Sandwich Generation members are at their best to be able to provide higher levels of care for their children and parents.
Ideas for Finding More Time
It’s also important to simplify life as much as possible and look for ways to make daily tasks easier. Using prepackaged meals and online services, such as grocery delivery and online banking, can streamline daily tasks and relieve pressure on Sandwich Generation caregivers. Making daily and weekly to-do lists, and then prioritizing tasks, can ensure everything that’s important gets done, while making it easier to eliminate nonessential tasks.
Having a family meeting and including children and elderly parents to discuss necessary tasks and responsibilities can go a long way to ensuring a smooth daily rhythm. It’s important to discuss where needs may require further attention or assistance, as well as acknowledge what’s going well. Keeping the lines of communication open ensures that everyone can thrive, and no one feels neglected. Bringing in a professional caregiver can ensure that everyone’s needs are met, while still giving Sandwich Generation members the space they need for their careers and taking care of their own needs.