What is the Sandwich Generation?
The demographics of our population are ever changing. There are currently more than 46 million adults age 65 and older. That number is expected to grow to almost 90 million over the next thirty years. And, as the elderly grow older, the younger generations are also getting older and are working to secure their own financial independence. Sandwiched between these two groups are the adults that taking care of their elderly parent and their own children. These adults are part of the Sandwich Generation. Surprisingly, about 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent that is age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child.
A Closer Look
As you get to know the Sandwich Generation more closely, you’ll quickly learn that these scenarios look a little different from family to family, but many of the responsibilities remain the same. Aging and elder care expert, Carol Abaya, offer identified three different scenarios that the Sandwich Generation typically falls into:
- Traditional Sandwich Generation – those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and their own children.
- Club Sandwich Generation – those in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children, and grandchildren.
- Open Faced Sandwich Generation – all others non-professionally involved in elder care.
More Caregiving = More Stress
As we all know, being a caregiver and a parent each have their own unique challenges. But taking on both roles is not only double duty in terms of responsibilities, it also doubles the stress.
With the sky rocketing cost and complexity of getting older in our country, many adult caregivers are often saddled with the worry and stress of making sure that their elderly parent is properly cared for. The daily stressors for caring for an elderly parent often include arranging medical care, assisting with activities of daily living (i.e., bathing, dressing, toileting, etc.), and managing medications.
It’s also estimated that 30% of 25-34 year olds reside with their parents, which means that many adult children are living with their parents during college or are coming home after their graduate. Many times, both of these roles also include providing financial or emotional support for a child or parent that you are caring for, which can also increase stress that caregivers often feel.
Caregiver stress is very common. So often caregivers are so overwhelmed with prioritizing caregiving duties that they forget to prioritize their own self care. Caregivers are often saddled with guilt, isolation or depression. They are stretched so thin that they find it hard to be a good spouse, parent, and child to those they care for and love. Because of this, these feelings often snowball into other issues and challenges with their own mental health.
First and foremost, taking care of yourself is hard to do when you have a heart to take care of others. But there is truth in the saying that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. Building a self-care routine is something that takes time and you have to actively pursue it.
The first step is to nurture your own well-being. This happens when you take care of your own basic needs. Make sure that you are eating and sleeping enough and checking in with your own doctors.
The second step is to ask for help. Sometimes our ego gets in our own way and keeps use from asking for help. Often we think, as caregivers, we have everything under control. This makes it even harder to admit that you need an extra set of helping hands. But do not think that you have to carry the entire burden of all of the caregiving responsibilities by yourself. Delegate the simple tasks to others in your household so you can have some extra breathing room for yourself.
Third, cut yourself some slack. Certain weeks may be busier or more stressful than others. When this happens, it’s important to pick and choose your priorities carefully. Put some of the household chores to the side for a week and give your attention to the more pressing issues. It’s ok to let some of the simple tasks go while you support yourself or a loved one.
Last, take time for yourself. Schedule down time for yourself. Even when you feel like there isn’t enough time to get everything done, it’s ok to take (or make) time for yourself. Set aside time to indulge yourself – relax, reflect, and do something for yourself!
Being a caregiver to a parent and a child is not easy. These caregivers are very brave for taking on this challenging set of responsibilities. Without them, many would be without the care that they need. There so much sacrifice involved that it’s important to make sure that anyone taking on this role is making sure they can reward themselves along the way. Check out our webinar, “Caring for the Caregiver” for more helpful ideas.