Maybe you’ve heard this term before, maybe you haven’t. The “Sandwich Generation” is defined as adults who are still caring for their children and already caring for their parents—hence they are “sandwiched” between two caregiver roles.
We expect to take care of our parents, and we expect to raise and take care of our kids, but we don’t expect to be the primary caregiver for both at the same time.
According to the Pew Research Center, about one in seven middle-aged adults between 40 and 57 are providing financial support to both their children and their parents. If you consider emotional support, it is four in 10. Their studies also showed that American adults are more likely to provide financial support to a grown child than they are to an aging parent.
63% of adults ages 40 to 59 financially support an adult child.
32% financially support a parent age 65 and older.
Caring for multiple generations can take a toll on you. The stress, time, energy and financial hardship are just some of the side effects of being the caregiver for two generations. Whether you are helping your mom and dad pay their bills, or helping them with lawn care, household chores or personal care, it can be stressful supporting an aging parent while still taking care of your children.
“Now it’s the children who are on the verge of retirement or who have retired and are still having responsibility of older parents,” Amy Horowitz, a professor of social work at Fordham University in New York, told The Daily World. “In New York City, I know somebody whose almost-90-year-old mother is living in the same apartment building. How do you balance your own life?”
You love your parents. You love your kids. They both need you in some capacity. So how do you make it work?
Take care of your own health
Caregivers often prioritize their family’s health above their own. It is important for you to care for your own mental, physical, and spiritual health first, so that you are in a good place to handle others’ needs. Seek help—you don’t have to handle this on your own or with only your spouse. There are many organizations that provide excellent care and counseling.
Carve out time for other relationships
Sometimes, the sandwich generation spends so much time and energy caring for their parents and their children, that they don’t have the energy or time to pursue and maintain other relationships: spouse, partner, friend, sister, etc. You can’t make more time, but you can carve out time to spend with your other family members, your friends, and your spouse.
Don’t neglect your finances
Caretaking is costly—not just in time and energy, but in finances too. Many adults in the sandwich generation are providing some amount of financial assistance to both their parents and their children. The result? Neglecting to save for their own retirement and maybe even struggling to pay bills for their own living expenses. Plan as much as you can, and connect with a financial advisor in your area—or ask a friend who they trust for financial counsel—to help you plan wisely and to help your parents to get their finances and affairs in order.
Start the conversation: Retirement Communities
This can be a difficult conversation to have with your parents, but a necessary part of planning for the future. Knowing your parent is living as independently as possible, and is thriving in a community where they are learning, growing, and making friends, can give you peace of mind. It also sets your parents up for success and peace. Perhaps they don’t need to move right now, but they will in the next five to 10 years. Start the process now, so it isn’t a crisis later. Whether it’s an independent living retirement community, assisted living community, or memory care home, you want to feel assured that it is the best fit for your mother or father.
Whether you are a Baby Boomer, Millennial, or part of Generation X, you may be dealing with this right now, or you could be in the future. Think ahead, plan now, and seek help.