By Rachel Brauner
The “sandwich generation” is a term used to describe adults who find themselves caring for both their aging parents and their own children simultaneously. Nearly one-quarter of adults who provide care for at least one parent over the age of 65 also take care of at least one child under 18 (Lei, Leggett, & Maust, 2022). These individuals are often “sandwiched” between the needs of their parents and their children and may face unique challenges that require careful consideration and planning, including but not limited to:
- Time management: Juggling the demands of caring for both aging parents and children can be overwhelming, leaving little time for self-care, work, and other responsibilities.
- Financial strain: Providing care for both children and parents can be expensive, especially if the individual has to take time off work or hire additional help.
- Emotional stress: Caring for loved ones can be emotionally draining, especially if there are conflicts or difficult decisions to be made.
- Guilt and pressure: Sandwiched caregivers may feel guilty for not being able to provide enough time, energy, or resources to either their parents or children.
- Conflicting priorities: The priorities of both children and parents may conflict, and sandwiched caregivers may have to make tough decisions about how to allocate their time and resources.
- Distance and location: If the parents live far away, caring for them may involve significant travel, coordination, and even relocation.
- Unpredictable circumstances: Unexpected events, such as sudden illnesses or accidents, can add extra stress and new or additional demands on the caregivers’ time and resources.
Tips for Caregivers
While navigating these challenges may be difficult, sandwiched caregivers can, with appropriate support, resources, and planning, find ways to manage their responsibilities while also taking care of themselves. Here are a few tips:
- Prioritize self-care: Take care of yourself so that you can be better equipped to take care of others. Make sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks when necessary.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and communicate them to your loved ones. Let them know what you can and can’t do, and don’t feel guilty for saying no if you need to.
- Get organized: Keep a calendar or schedule to help you stay on top of appointments, deadlines, and other important events. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensure that everything gets done.
- Seek support: Look for support from family members, friends, or like-minded groups. You may also want to consider hiring a professional caregiver or seeking respite care to give yourself a break.
- Communicate openly: Share concerns, challenges, and limitations openly and honestly with your parents and children. Involve them in decision-making processes as appropriate to their level of understanding and capacity to support.
By taking these steps, individuals can provide the quality care that their loved ones need while also maintaining their own well-being.
Family Caregiver Alliance. (2022). Sandwiched In – Caregivers in the Middle. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from https://www.caregiver.org/resource/sandwiched-caregivers-middle/
Lei, L., Leggett, A., & Maust, D. (2022). A national profile of sandwich generation caregivers providing care to both older adults and children. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 71(3), 799-809.