It’s estimated that 47% of adults are a part of the “sandwich generation.” It consists of adults who not only taking care of their kids but also their aging parents.
The “sandwich phenomenon” is affecting a growing segment of the population. This demographic faces unique challenges and a stressful lifestyle.
The term was born in 1981 by a social worker named Dorothy Miller. Read on for five signs that you are part of this ever-expanding demographic.
1. Sandwich Generation Demographics
Do you fit the sandwich generation statistics?
The sandwich generation caregiver is typically 40-50 years old. They are raising a small child or they are financially responsible for an older child. It’s estimated that 15% of this group financially supports an elderly parent.
People in the sandwich generation work full-time jobs on top of taking care of their family. Females take the caretaker role more often than men. They are more likely to be adversely affected by the pressure of the situation.
A dual caregiver may be extending care to grandparents or grandchildren, too. People in this situation are “club sandwich” caregivers.
2. Sandwich Generation at Work
Are your commitments affecting your job?
Being a sandwich generation caregiver affects work performance. These workers miss work because of family commitments. Tired and stressed, they are not as productive at work.
Companies are beginning to address the needs of this special demographic of workers. These benefits include:
- health incentives to encourage the worker to care for herself
- financial planning workshops
- encouraging stress relief at work
If you are a dual caregiver, check your employee benefits booklet or speak to your Human Resources manager. Your company might offer a perk to you.
3. Sandwich Generation Caregiver and Stress
Do you feel overwhelmingly stressed by your commitments?
Juggling all your responsibilities is stressful. Some ideas to help you manage your stress levels include:
- Consult a therapist to learn healthy coping skills
- Consider companion care or after-school programs
- Recruit other family members to help you
- Join support groups locally or online
- Carve out the time to care for yourself
Your doctor, therapist, or local church can point you in the right direction for support.
4. Sandwich Generation Caregiver and Elderly Parents
Are you responsible for your elderly parents?
It’s not enough for a dual caregiver to understand how to deal with children. According to seasonsalf.com, they also need to understand how to deal with elderly parents.
Elderly parents can have significant health problems. Some have a cognitive disorder, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. You may be responsible for physical support, emotional support, and other caregiver duties.
Find local support and help for your elderly loved ones at a site such as Eldercare Locator. This site connects you with local services, like meals and transportation. It gives contact information for hiring qualified caregivers to lend you a hand.
5. Sandwich Generation Caregiver and Kids
Are your kids affected by your dual caregiver obligations?
Kids of the sandwich generation are financially affected by the situation their parents find themselves in. 70% of these children spend money as soon as they have it rather than saving it. Over half of dual caregivers have no idea what their children are buying with that money.
The reason these kids are likely to spend money indiscriminately is that their parents don’t discuss finances with them. As a dual caregiver, you may find yourself strapped for cash. You hesitate to involve your children in money-related conversations.
Kids already know some of the family’s financial story, though. If you don’t have a discussion with them, they automatically assume you are one “half-off canned goods” coupon away from bankruptcy. You need to keep them informed so they have a better understanding of the family’s financial standings.
Tips to Help You as a Dual Caregiver
It’s possible to be a dual caregiver without letting your commitments and obligations overwhelm you. Here are a few tips for managing life as a sandwich generation caregiver.
You Aren’t a Superhero
You don’t have to shoulder all of the responsibility for your parents and children alone. Hire a caregiver for your parents. Caregivers help with housekeeping, companionship, medications and doctor’s appointments.
Ask your siblings to help you with some of the responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to ask them to help you financially if necessary. Make a schedule so all the family helps.
Take Time For Yourself
You need to take time out of every day for yourself. This could mean an hour of exercise, reading, or meditating. Hang an invisible “do not disturb” sign and don’t allow any interruptions from the kids or your spouse.
How much of your day is spent updating family members about your parents or kids? Consider group emails or texts several times a week to update everyone at once. A few lines discussing doctor’s appointments and general health will keep everyone informed.
Remember that you are one person with only 24 hours in your day. Take a few minutes before bed to list the next day’s obligations. Prioritize them, and don’t forget to ask for help for things you don’t have the time for.
Just Say No
Even the smallest obligation will be too much when you are already stretched to the limit. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to baking the brownies for your son’s bake sale, or helping your friend move on Saturday.
Make sure you want to do the things you agree to do. Friends and family will understand that you are spread too thin if you communicate with them. If you can’t see the task as a way to enjoy yourself or take a break from your obligations, just say no.
Nurture Your Relationships
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are a dual caregiver of the sandwich generation. Your relationships can suffer if you don’t take extra time to nurture them.
Communication is key. If you feel short-tempered and tired, explain this to your spouse. If you need help around the house to accomplish everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help.