According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 Fact and Figures report, “eighty-three percent of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers.” Does that sound familiar? If you’re like many Americans, you’re probably pitching in with needy family members wherever possible, all while balancing your own family responsibilities. And during this unique moment in our social history, these so-called sandwich generation caregivers are becoming more common.
What is the Sandwich Generation?
Simply put, the sandwich generation consists of people who provide care for an aging parent while at the same time caring for their own underage children. And their numbers are significant. According to the Pew Research Center, “nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older).” In addition, “about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.” The Alzheimer’s Association dug deeper and found “approximately one quarter of dementia caregivers are ‘sandwich generation’ caregivers.”
This phenomena comes as a result of several societal changes occurring simultaneously. American’s are living longer, developing dementia in greater numbers, and needing more help accomplishing day-to-day tasks as they age. In many instances, these older Americans can’t afford or don’t want to live in retirement communities, so they instead take to living with their adult children. Compounding matters, these adult children generally waited longer to have children than their parents, and as a result, have children living with them later in life. And even if their children are grown, they’re likely still providing them some level of financial assistance. Thus, the Sandwich Generation finds themselves set squarely between competing responsibilities.
Pulled in Many Directions
Members of the sandwich direction find themselves pulled between their natural responsibilities as parents and their newly assumed responsibilities to elderly parents. When you tie in the challenges that come with managing a career, a marriage, and all the tasks and chores that come with them, it’s a wonder how they accomplish anything at all. You can imagine (or you already understand) the unique challenges and stress these circumstances place on this generation’s members. And the statistics back that up. Again, the Alzheimer’s Association notes that, “sandwich generation caregivers indicate lower quality of life and diminished health and health behaviors (for example, less likely to choose healthful foods and less likely to exercise) compared with non-sandwich generation caregivers or non-caregivers.” So how do you cope with all these challenges? Start by asking for help.
Ask for Help
If you find yourself sandwiched between the demands of your kids and the demands of your parents, you don’t have to go it alone. Try asking siblings for help (even if they live out-of-town). You might be surprised how they can help. The key here, of course, is to ask out loud. Don’t wait for an offer, or assume people know you need help. You can also look into an in-home caregiving service. Even if it’s as little as one or two days a month, that extra help might provide the breathing room you need.
If you live in the greater Phoenix area, Generations Home Care can help. Our trained caregivers can help out with most day-to-day tasks, including bathing and personal care. If you’d like to know more, visit our service page and then give us a call at 602-595-HOME (4663). You can also fill out the contact form on our website and we’ll get right back to you. You’re getting pulled in a lot of different directions, and you probably feel like you’re not doing anything very well. It doesn’t have to be that way. Take care of yourself first and ask for help when you need it. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.