What Is the Sandwich Generation, and What Does It Mean for Senior Living?

Adult Child   |   By HumanGood

Grandma cooking in the kitchen with her grandchildren

If you’re caring for a young child and have aging parents, then you might be a member of the sandwich generation. If you are the adult child of an aging parent, you probably already know that you don’t have to be a caregiver to experience stress about your loved one’s health and well-being. For caregivers of adults with health issues, though, the stress can be especially pronounced. 

According to 2018 data from the Pew Research Center, about 12% of parents of young children are also caring for an older adult. These unpaid family caregivers spend an average of 2½ hours each day on unpaid caregiving. This adds up to approximately $470 billion annually in unpaid care, making their contributions invaluable to their families, their communities and the economy. Caring for children and parents involves more than just direct care. Members of the sandwich generation may become advocates, healthcare experts, volunteer coordinators and more — often on top of full-time paid work. It’s easy to feel like you’re working two or more jobs. 

The right senior living community can help your aging parent realize their full potential, enjoying a life of purpose while nurturing new friendships. It can also restore a sense of balance to your relationship, freeing you to enjoy time together rather than worrying about caregiving. And, of course, you can’t care well for another if your own needs are unmet. A great community can give you the support you need to clear your own mind and practice self-care, so you can continue to be a loving parent and child. 

What the Sandwich Generation Is Juggling

The sandwich generation earned its name because it’s sandwiched in the middle of two significant roles: caring for young children and thinking about the well-being of aging parents. 

Both roles can be exhausting. One study, for example, found that parents remain sleep-deprived for six years after having a child. Of course, by the time you hit this point, there are other challenges: managing homework, driving kids to soccer practice, supporting kids through conflict with friends and experiencing new challenges at every phase of development. 

The Practical Challenges of Caregiving

There is only so much time in a day, and no one can do it alone. We all must sleep, eat and tend to our basic needs. If you’re someone who provides care to children and parents, you may never get a moment to yourself. You may struggle with tending to children, getting to work, tending to seniors and finding a spare moment to grab a dentist appointment or pay your bills. 

It’s easy to feel like you’re endlessly running around and perhaps like you’re struggling to fill each role. Some caregivers feel like they’re perennially failing at all forms of caregiving because the demands can be quite intense. But the work you do is incredibly important. Consider how much you might pay a nanny, an in-home aide or an executive assistant to accomplish these tasks, and it may become clearer how valuable your work truly is. 

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone 

You may sometimes feel alone as a family caregiver — but you aren’t. Millions of Americans are juggling these same challenges, and there are people who can help. 

One of the challenges members of the sandwich generation face is their own sense of duty. You may feel that the work you do for your family is a higher calling and something you must do no matter what. You may worry that your frustration or burnout are signs of weakness or that asking for support is akin to giving up. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. No one can fill all of the roles children and senior parents need, especially when they must also work, tend to a home, take care of pets and carve out some space for themselves. The right senior living community supports both you and your loved one. It gives your parents a worry-free home you’ll relish visiting. It may help end family conflicts over caregiving demands. It also means your loved one will gain access to delicious food, virtually endless things to do and a supportive community of potential friends. 

Today’s senior living communities offer conveniences, services, social events that are difficult to get while still living at home. Many seniors wonder why they didn’t move earlier. 

Some Signs You Need Help and Support 

You don’t have to wait until you reach your breaking point to begin exploring options to get more support for your family. Every member of your family deserves a life filled with joy, purpose and relaxation. That includes you. 

Some signs that you need additional support include: 

  • You have an unsupportive partner who doesn’t help with caregiving. 
  • You are overwhelmed by criticism from your family about your caregiving choices. 
  • You feel exhausted, burned out or chronically stressed. 
  • You don’t have time to take care of yourself. 
  • You’re finding less meaning in caregiving and feel resentful. 
  • You worry that you can’t give your aging parent all of the support they need. 
  • You feel depressed or anxious. 
  • Your caregiving roles frequently come into conflict with one another. 

Talking to your loved one about senior living is not giving up. It’s opening the door to a better life for everyone, perhaps especially your loved one. You don’t have to feel stressed and frazzled forever.

To learn more about the sandwich generation, read our guide, “How the Sandwich Generation Can Reduce Caregiver Burnout.

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