Trying to care for elderly parents while simultaneously raising your own children is enough to make anyone feel crazy. Moms like myself who are part of the sandwich generation are constantly being pulled in different directions, trying to be everything for everyone, and it may feel as though you have way too much on your plates all the time. At the same time, the strong multi-generational family relationships that come from this type of relationship can’t be ignored. There are several difficulties and rewards associated with being a member of the sandwich generation, especially as your aging parents increasingly require more care.
What Is the Sandwich Generation?
The “sandwich” generation is the generation that falls in between aging parents and young children. They’re young professionals who are still juggling many of the responsibilities of children at home and a growing career, yet who are also responsible for the needs of aging parents. Sandwiched in the middle of these two great needs, many people may feel as though they’re juggling way too many responsibilities.
Why All the Sandwich Generation Awareness?
Aging baby boomers are creating a larger sandwich generation than ever before. Suddenly, elderly individuals are living longer. They’re able to experience an amazing quality of life for many years into their retirement and live longer with health challenges that would previously have cost their lives. As a result, the sandwich generation is becoming more common—and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Primary Issues of the Sandwich Generation
There are a variety of challenges that I faced as a member of the sandwich generation. I was responsible for fitting care for my aging parents into an already-full schedule, from making sure that mom wasn’t leaving the stove on and burning the house down to shuttling dad to his appointments and meetings. Feeling as though you’re giving your own children enough time and attention is a constant challenge: it’s hard to feel as though you’ve been there adequately for your kids when after-work time is spent cleaning your parent’s house, sitting with them to ensure that they don’t fall, or preparing their meals.
Of serious impact to many members of the sandwich generation is financial planning. In many cases, caregivers are making up the shortfall in their parents’ retirement planning, helping to provide the funds for needed medical expenses or day-to-day living, or paying the high cost of long-term care for their parents. We’re also forced into the position of planning for long-term care for our parents, struggling to decide what steps are appropriate for each stage of the aging process. It’s a lot for anyone to carry on their shoulders! The least you can do is have a conversation with your parents regarding their retirement planning and/or have them reach out to a long term care Medicaid planning professional. This will significantly ease the burden off your back when the financial aspect has been dealt with.
The Benefits of Belonging to the Sandwich Generation
With all the troubles associated with being a member of the sandwich generation, it’s hard to imagine that the benefits could rise to meet them—but in many cases, they do. Caregiving families are able to develop complex inter-generational relationships. Our kids were able to get to know their grandparents, spending plenty of time with them. They got to listen to their stories, learn those important life lessons, and the adolescents received guidance for those rocky years. Members of the sandwich generation can rely on their parents for advice. In many cases, the older generation can also provide plenty of help with daily tasks, from feeding a baby to freeing up mom’s hands to helping with light tasks around the house. Children who are raised as part of this multigenerational arrangement have a deeper sense of family and altruism than they can get from a single generation alone. It is also an opportunity for us as adult children to “pay back” our parents and be there for them when they need us the most.
The sandwich generation isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Being aware of both the upside and the downside of this trend can help many individuals prepare for the years to come. Financial, emotional, and mental preparation can make it much easier to navigate these complex waters and enjoy the benefits of being a member of the sandwich generation while managing the difficulties with grace and poise.