What is the Sandwich Generation?

The Sandwich Generation

Think of your favorite sandwich, two pieces of bread stuck together and the layers in the middle are being squeezed flat. That image perfectly depicts a generation of adults who are squeezed between the needs of their elderly family members or friends and the needs of children who are still at home or in need of financial support. The name, Sandwich Generation is somewhat of a misnomer – it’s not a particular generation but an ongoing conundrum of mostly middle-aged adults caught in the middle between caring for those they love.

According to a recent report issued by the National Caregiving Alliance, more than 11 million Americans are “sandwiched” between the needs of an elderly family member and their children. While there is wide diversity amongst these caregivers ethnically and racially, the majority are Generation X or millennials, women, married, and employed.

Sandwich Generation stress factors

There are upsides to multigenerational families caring for each other. However, balancing work, children’s needs, and an elderly family member’s needs can cause significant stress emotionally, financially, and physically. Since the majority of these caregivers are also employed, balancing career needs with the needs of their family can be overwhelming.

Many caregivers leave the workforce because of the time constraints needed to give proper care, adding to the financial burden on their families. Sandwich Generation caregivers can also find themselves emotionally drained– having to constantly choose where to place attention and often choosing not to take enough time for themselves.

Tips for managing the stress

Striving to be everything for everyone can be overwhelming for Sandwich Generation caregivers but there are some tips that can help. Perhaps the most important tip is to remember that if you are in this position, you are not alone and there are resources to help.

  • Take care of yourself: Just like the flight attendants say put on your oxygen mask first, you cannot do anything for anyone without taking care of yourself. Self-care can seem like one more thing to do, but try to remember that it is simply being intentional about restoring your own strength and spirit. Set boundaries and take the time to fill yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually – sometimes setting aside time for a short, daily walk can help to bring things back into perspective.
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  • Recognize the need for help and accept it: Often we think that it will just be easier if we do it ourselves. Yet, it is important to recognize when you need help and how help can benefit other family members. Friends and family may be able to pitch in in different ways – household chores, transportation, meal prep, or grocery shopping. Involving them in this stage of your loved one’s life engages them too and can help build lasting memories for each family member. Hire help if need be, for example, having a home professionally cleaned can take a lot of pressure off everyone.
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  • Find ways to streamline communication: Caregivers can be overwhelmed by the constant need to communicate with doctors and family members. Organizing doctor and medical information into a binder or spreadsheet will save time and help keep records organized. Using WhatsApp and other group text messaging and email groups can help manage the amount of communication needed by family members and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
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  • Talk to your employer: Employers may be able to point toward resources that you are not aware of such as emergency childcare funding or FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) provisions for time off.

How senior care can help Sandwich Generation caregivers

Sandwich Generation caregivers do not have to be overwhelmed. Instead, there are many resources available to them to manage. Those options can include:

Home care

Home care is non-medical assistance with daily living requirements. This can include helping with meal preparation, transportation, hygiene needs, and companionship. This kind of care is perfect for the senior who is independent but needs physical help with getting their needs taken care of.

Home Health aide

Home health aides are medically licensed caregivers who can help with basic medical needs at home. This includes making sure medications are given properly, maintain feeding tubes, exercising routines are followed and maintain records for a physician. They are similar to home care companions in that they can do light housework, and provide companionship.

 
Learn more about Home Health services

Adult daycare

Adult daycare programs are designed to help families care for seniors who either need supervision during the day or would benefit from the social activities these programs provide. Like similar programs for children, these programs allow family members to work during normal business hours knowing that their loved one is cared for and enjoying themselves. Services can either be centered on socializing or health needs but usually include meals and transportation, some medical screening and management of medications, and other monitoring of needs.

Respite care

Respite care is short-term care needed to give caregivers a break. Caring for a loved one who is aging, ill, or with other special needs is a round-the-clock job. No one can do it without a break – whether it’s for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. Respite care can be given in the home, through a daycare program, or for short stays in an assisted living care facility.

 
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Bottom line

Whatever help you need, Sandwich Generation caregivers do not have to do the job alone or feel overwhelmed. Depending on your need and resources, there are different options that can help everyone be loved and cared for.

 
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