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What is the Sandwich Generation for Family Caregivers?

Members of this group are “sandwiched” between the needs of their aging parents and those of their kids. Explore the unique challenges and responsibilities faced by this unique group of caregivers.

Reviewed by
Sarah Trott

Think of it this way: one day you’re driving an aging parent to a physical therapy appointment, or picking up their prescription. The next, you’re taking your preteen to guitar lessons or tennis practice. You spend a great deal of time caring for your parent, with no opportunity to recharge. Your kids are counting on you too.

If this sounds like you, then you may be a member of the sandwich generation.

This article will dive deep into the caregiving obligations this group faces.

What Is the Sandwich Generation?

The sandwich generation refers to a group of people who are caught between competing responsibilities: caring for aging loved ones and supporting their own children. In other words, members of this group are “sandwiched” between the needs of their aging parents and those of their kids.

Generally, the sandwich generation refers to people between their early 40s and their early 60s. These people are still employed and working toward their own financial stability—but they’re focused on others too. They may be raising children who require a great deal of time and attention. Then, while the kids are in school, they’re looking after their own parents! 

There are a number of factors at play here. One is a shift in the typical family structure. Birth rates have been declining for the last 70 years, which means there are fewer children per family to support their aging parents. Just one or two adult children may share the brunt of the work (and the financial burden).

In addition, people are living longer. While life expectancy declined slightly during the pandemic, it rose significantly in the decades leading up to COVID-19. As a result, members of the sandwich generation are caring for their elderly parents for much longer than they used to.

The stress of the situation doesn’t end there. With the state of the economy, more young adults are living with their parents well after they turn 18. And in 2019, experts found that 30% of U.S. family caregivers of aging parents also lived in a household with children or grandchildren.

This compounds the sandwich generation’s caregiving responsibilities. It also creates a number of challenges.

What Challenges Does the Sandwich Generation Face?

It’s no secret the sandwich generation is stretched thin. Financial strain, stress and anxiety, and time management issues are just some of the difficulties this group faces. Let’s explore these challenges in more detail:

Financial strain

Members of the sandwich generation have to care for their dependents and their aging parents. This can get expensive fast—especially if you’re trying to save for retirement. You may need to take time off work in order to care for others, or cover the cost of medical expenses. 

Stress and anxiety

Balancing the needs of your parents and children can get stressful fast. You may feel guilty when you take a moment for yourself, or frustrated when you’re pulled in different directions. Even the act of watching your parents age can cause your anxiety to spike.

Time constraints

You know how you need to put your own so-called oxygen mask on first? The saying is true, but it’s hard to care for yourself when you need to care for others. Members of the sandwich generation may feel they need to choose between their parents and their kids. Some may ignore their own needs entirely.

It’s no wonder so many “sandwiched” caregivers struggle with burnout. But this doesn’t have to be you.

Caregiving Support for the Sandwich Generation

If you’re part of the sandwich generation, we want to commend you. Taking on a caregiving role for your parents is no small thing. Try to create systems to stay organized, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. There’s no shame in seeking support.

There are also a number of resources available for family caregivers. Many communities, for example, offer meal delivery and transportation services for aging adults. There are also programs for your young adult children to learn financial independence. You can absolutely find services that ease the burden of caregiving. 

The truth is that you can manage your responsibilities and restore balance to your life. You can even get paid to take care of your aging parents. Aidaly is here to help with that—by making sure you have access to the compensation you deserve.

Learn more by checking your eligibility today.

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