The Sandwich Generation is called that because the caregivers are being “sandwiched” between two generations.
The caregivers in this situation are typically in their 40s or 50s and studies have found that close to 70 percent of these caregivers are also working full time jobs in addition to rearing their own children and caring for their aging parents. These caregivers – because they are trying to juggle so many tasks – are faced with physical, emotional and mental stresses which are leading to burnout and such a sense of overwhelm that they have a hard time getting through the day.
The National Alliance for Caregiving describes an average Sandwich Generation caregiver as:
- A mid-40 year old woman
- Caring for parents in their mid-70s
- Has children under the age of 18 still living at home
- Is married
- Works either full or part time outside of the home
- Is suffering from stress, guilt and burn out from the roles she’s juggling
- Is spending close to 10 percent of her household income on care-related items for aging parents
When you add up all of the things that a caregiver is trying to keep in the air, it’s easy to see why they are also dealing with:
- Poor health and nutrition habits
- Little to no physical exercise
- Skipping personal doctor or dental visits
- Depression and isolation
The female caregivers in the Sandwich Generation have been shown to suffer more adverse health risks because they are usually the ones taking care of both generations and because women are typically the caregivers in these situations. Men have been, in recent years, become more involved in caregiving roles and are providing back up to the women in their lives.
What can be done to help those in the Sandwich Generation? Here are some thoughts:
- Install a home medical alert system in the home of the aging loved one. This will provide peace of mind to all family members involved and may allow the caregiver to step away from the role for several hours or overnight without the fear of their aging parent suffering an illness or injury while they’re alone.
- Take time to step away from the role of caregiver and take time for oneself is crucial to being an effective caregiver.
- Reach out and asking for help from other family members or looking to church or other social groups for assistance.
- Make arrangements with your aging parents to have food delivered to the home so the caregiver either no longer has to cook the meals or worry whether they are eating good meals.
- Be “selfish” with taking personal time away from both generations – even if it’s only for a few hours a week.
- Talk with others in your situation who can offer support and advice on how to get it all done.
- Talk with your parents doctor about services for the aging which your parents may be eligible for
- Ask parents of children with whom your children interact for help in car-pooling or other child care tasks.
To be an effective caregiver – to either generation – a caregiver needs to take time to care for him or herself as well.
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