Health & Wellness / Opinion / Politics

The Sandwich Generation: Caring for Their Elders and Youngsters at the Same Time

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 8 — The Pew Research Center calls them “multigenerational caregivers” or “the sandwich generation.”  They are those moms and dads who have children to take care of and who have elderly relatives who need caring for as well.  There are more of them than you might think, says Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].

Weber says 21st Century medical breakthroughs that save lives also increase life spans that can be a blessing for many of us, giving us the opportunity to grow old gracefully.  But it can also be challenging for those who are living longer with debilitating ailments and for their adult children who are their caregivers and have children of their own.

The researchers at Pew tell us that, “With an aging population and a generation of young adults struggling to achieve financial independence, the burdens and responsibilities of middle-aged Americans are increasing. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.”

They are caught in between a rock and a hard place, as the expression goes, and the COVID pandemic with its restrictions has made it even harder for them to cope.

The New York Times and pollsters at YouGov conducted a survey not too long ago in which they asked more than 5,000 individuals, including those taking care of family members and their own children at the same time.  They asked about the financial and personal costs they’ve had to bear.  Their findings: “On average, survey respondents who are caring for both children and older relatives estimate that they have lost more than $10,000 because they had to do things like reduce their working hours, increase their expenses or leave a job entirely as a result of these responsibilities.”

It should be noted that not all the news that resulted from that polling was negative.  Twenty-three percent of those who were taking care of aging family members said the experience had “strengthened their relationship with them.”

The bottom line, according to columnist, Carol Bradley Bursack, is this: “If you are part of the sandwich generation, please make a point of having another “filling” in the sandwich. Make it a “peanut butter and jelly” by ensuring you have someone to share the load with you, even if it is just occasionally. This second filling can be a family member, a friend, a professional caregiver hired through a home care company or, better yet, all three. Having a care team and back-up help is much more interesting and beneficial for all involved.”

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