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The Challenges of the Sandwich Generation

There are specific challenges that accompany people at any age. This article focuses specifically on those who are in the “sandwich generation,” people with children to care for, and older relatives that need care too.

Let’s understand what the “sandwich generation” is, what the specific struggles are that they face, and how to solve those struggles.

What is the Sandwich Generation? 

The Sandwich Generation is a term used to describe individuals who simultaneously care for their aging parents while providing financial and emotional support to their children. This generation of caregivers, usually composed of middle-aged adults, is sandwiched between two generations that rely on them for assistance.

The struggles of the Sandwich Generation

This generation often carries the physical and financial burden of caring for children and relatives who need support – all at the same time.

As a result, this generation can feel overwhelmed with caring for both ends of the family tree at once. Additionally, this generation experiences financial strain as they attempt to provide financially for all members in need.

According to a report from AARP, 51% had provided some form of monetary support in the past year alone—even if it was just paying bills or covering medical expenses when needed. The stress associated with these duties can be immense and have far-reaching effects on physical health and mental well-being: leading many sandwich generationers down an emotionally draining path while trying desperately not to neglect either end’s needs.

The especially difficult strain of elder care

Caring for an elder can be a difficult and challenging task. Providing the best care possible often requires long hours, physical effort, and emotional strength. For many family caregivers, this responsibility is overwhelming and exhausting.

Caring for elders can also bring financial strain as medical costs in medication or specialist appointments quickly increase. There can be additional expenses, too, such as purchasing specialized equipment or hiring a homecare worker if necessary.

Self-care is vital. 

Feelings of guilt are common when sacrifices must be made at home and work due to the lack of available time or resources needed by elderly family members who depend on them greatly. Family caregivers for older relatives will struggle to balance work obligations while still finding time for themselves. They must develop strategies to maintain their own well-being while providing quality care and support for their loved ones.

These challenges are not confined to caring for an elderly family member, as this generation also cares for children. This generation is motivated to provide guidance and support as their children grow. This often means increased emotional support when needed. It is hard to say “no” to a child looking for more attention, especially when the parent’s time is already stretched.

Coping strategies

‘Setting boundaries is critical so that you don’t deplete internal resources. Learning to say no when necessary can allow more quality time without feeling guilty.’

With children while watching kids struggle is not easy; it’s important to remember that these moments are part of the process of growing up and learning how to become independent individuals. While you will probably want to intervene in certain situations, learn when it’s appropriate for you to step back and let them figure things out on their own.

With elder relatives, it is key to remember that their situation will likely change dramatically over time. Therefore, it’s best to provide clear communication protocols that are not on-demand, in-contact tether. This also holds true for financial demands. There will likely be times when they need help financially, so being prepared ahead of time by having open conversations about expectations can help ease the difficulty during those moments.

Being part of the sandwich generation can be a difficult experience because both situations are subject to a lot of change in a relatively short amount of time. Caregivers need to be realistic about what they can do. They need to corral support from other family members, and the community, such as adult day centers, may provide much-needed support at times of difficulty by offering breaks where you know those under your care will be safe.

More than anything, though, the Sandwich Generation needs to learn to manage expectations and work to alleviate some of the stress and pressure associated with being in the generation in the middle.

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