Posted by: Jason T. Johns
Dorothy Miller, a social worker, first created the term “sandwich generation” in 1981. In 2006, Miriam Webster included the term in its dictionary for the first time. A sandwich generation is defined as a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. It is believed that this is occurring because of the increase in life span for adults and also because of delayed parenting. Medicine and technology are allowing people to live longer, while couples are waiting to start families. These two factors leave people caring for aging loved ones and young children at the same time.
Issues for the Sandwich Generation
One major issue for the sandwich generation is the financial burden. Because many in the sandwich generation may not have anticipated having to provide for the needs of their aging parents, they may be stretched thin financially. Another issue for this group – one that is often compounded by the financial struggle – is increased stress. While pulling double duty caring for children and aging parents, stress is an understandable and expected side effect.
Whatever the living situation of the aging parent, the responsibilities of caring for them often adds to the already busy schedule of parenting their own children. The sandwich generation then feels pulled in too many directions. This can often leave them feeling as though they do not have enough of themselves to give to everyone, which in turn leads to guilt and burnout.
If these issues continue to mount, depression can become another issue. Depression can set in when the sandwich generation has little time for hobbies or social interactions, leaving them feeling isolated. The stress and financial burden can contribute to these feelings of depression. Those in the sandwich generation must recognize these potential problems and find ways to deal with them. Otherwise, they will be ineffective in caring for aging parents and their own children, and the pressure will continue to mount.
Dealing with Issues for the Sandwich Generation
In order to be a good caregiver, individuals in the sandwich generation must find ways to take care of themselves and to ask for – and accept – help when needed. One way for members of the sandwich generation to find time for themselves is respite care. Respite care provides short-term relief from caregiving responsibilities. Respite allows caregivers time for themselves and for their own family responsibilities.
In addition, caregivers can plan ahead for upcoming tasks and financial needs to help tackle stress and financial burdens. Having a family meeting at which family members delegate responsibilities can be very beneficial. Extended family can also help to share the responsibility of caregiving. Having siblings or other involved family members share the task of caring for the aging parent can help lessen the burden on just one person. Also, talking with a close friend about the struggle can be a very therapeutic way to deal with the stress of caregiving.
Being a member of the sandwich generation has many challenges. The demands on a person caring for aging parents while also raising their own family can be overwhelming. Self-care is essential to avoiding the pitfalls associated with caregiving. In addition, it is important to remember that it is perfectly acceptable to seek help in order to maintain mental health and provide good care for everyone.
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Courtesy of ElderCounsel, LLC