The sandwich generation refers to the group of middle-aged adults who support both their children and their parents financially, emotionally, physically, or all of the above.
This sandwich generation of caregivers can face overwhelming stress while trying to balance the needs of their children with the needs of their spouses and senior parents.
As a result, these caregivers may lose touch with friends, stop properly caring for themselves, and eventually experience caregiver burnout.
Let’s dig into who qualifies as the sandwich generation of caregivers, the types of stressors they are facing, and how to reduce stress to successfully navigate the future.
Who is the sandwich generation of caregivers?
Research has found that almost half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older, and these adults are either still raising a young child or financially supporting a young adult age 18 or older.
These adults are the sandwich generation, caught in-between both parents and children who need their support.
Additionally, about 15% of middle-aged adults are financially supporting both a parent and a child.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also contributed to the growing sandwich generation, because a large number of adult children moved back home while senior parents faced various care needs.
What types of challenges do the sandwich generation face?
Members of the sandwich generation may have difficulty juggling their time and their financial responsibilities for both their children and aging parents.
If the sandwich generation has children in college and are responsible for helping their parents with medical costs, the financial stress can be heavy.
Even if their adult child is out of college, the child may be struggling financially themselves and can’t afford to support themselves.
As a result, they are still relying on their parents for support.
Many members of the sandwich generation find that they feel more obligated to help an aging parent than an adult child, but wouldn’t turn away a child in need — especially if the pandemic affected their financial security.
Even more pressing than the financial burdens of the sandwich generation is the struggle for time.
Not all members of this generation have an adult child. Some may have a pre-teen or teen to care for.
It can be difficult to juggle a parent’s appointments and errands, a child’s school and sport’s schedules, and a spouse’s needs, too.
Often, these adults have a job of their own, as well.
Tips to avoid caregiver burnout in sandwich generation
While all family caregivers face unique challenges and are at risk of caregiver burnout, there are some special considerations for those in the sandwich generation.
Juggling all the responsibilities of various family members can cause sandwich generation caregivers to begin neglecting their own needs.
While it may at first be easier to forge ahead without needs, over time, it can lead to burnout.
Watch for the following signs of caregiver burnout:
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Social withdrawal from friends and family
- Losing interest in favorite activities
- Changes in sleep, appetite, and weight
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling irritable and blue
- Getting sick more often
Whether you are beginning to feel the symptoms of burnout, it’s never too early or too late to stop your current path and start to make healthier choices for yourself.
Caring for yourself first will allow you to care for your family with more energy, love, and attention. It’s an act of love for both yourself and your family to take care of your own needs.
To avoid burnout, here are some tips to taking back control of your financial, physical, and emotional health, so you can better help your loved ones.
As a sandwich generation caregiver, you are being pulled in numerous directions.
Take some time to sit and write out all your responsibilities so you can begin to craft appropriate solutions.
Write out the tasks you can handle and the tasks you need help with.
Consider creating a care plan draft so you understand your course of action in case Mom or Dad’s needs change beyond what you are capable of handling.
Once you understand your limits, you then can ask for help.
Ask for help
It can be difficult to ask for help as a caregiver, but if you fully understand your capabilities, it can be easier to have clear, direct requests for those around you.
Consider hosting a family meeting and divvying out responsibilities. This can include grocery trips, prescription pickups, appointments, meal planning, and visits.
If you have an adult child at home, ask how you can help them find employment and provide tips to get them back on their feet.
Seek additional support
If you’re struggling financially or with maintaining a full-time job, consider what types of local resources or job benefits you can take advantage of.
Speak with your employer about your situation, and whether you have the option to create a more flexible work schedule. You also may be able to take some time off work using family medical leave (FMLA) to get things situated at home.
Discuss your financial situation openly with your family to understand all options available to you. Your parents may be able to use government or veterans aid, and your adult child may have some financial suggestions as well.
Also consider searching for local senior resources or programs that can help cover costs.
It may be helpful to seek out a caregiver support group, as well, to gain access to valuable resources and support from others who understand your situation.
Take care of yourself
The most important tip to avoid caregiver burnout is to take care of yourself.
While making a plan and asking for help are part of caring for yourself, there are small ways you can incorporate self care into every day.
The self-care basics include:
- Eating regular, nourishing snacks and meals
- Exercising: taking walks, riding a bike, practicing yoga, etc.
- Getting enough rest
- Calling or meeting up with a friend
- Practicing a hobby
- Working with a therapist
Caring for yourself will help you be the best version of yourself, and make the right choices for you and your family.
The Kensington White Plains supports caregivers and families
Part of your care plan for your aging parents may include an assisted living community.
Caregiving can often become too much for a family member, either financially, physically, or emotionally.
When this happens, it’s important to find a loving, caring community that encourages its residents to thrive at every stage.
The Kensington White Plains is an enhanced assisted living and memory care community.
We also provide:
- On-site rehabilitation, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy
- A full calendar of life enrichment activities
- Gourmet dining that accommodates all dietary needs and preferences
- Two memory care “neighborhoods” to meet the specialized needs of our residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- Around-the-clock care
Call our team today to tell us about your loved one’s unique needs and preferences, and to hear about all the services and types of care we can provide.
At The Kensington, we Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own. We can’t wait to show you Our Promise in action.