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Are You Part of the Sandwich Generation?

Did you know that 1 in 7 middle-aged Americans are “sandwiched” between caring for both their children and elder parents? Now more than ever, Americans are caring for their aging parents while still raising children of their own. Often, these Americans are working and balancing other responsibilities. With all that they have to do, it’s no wonder why they feel “sandwiched” by all the responsibility.

To better understand the sandwich generation, let’s take a look at Susan’s story.

Susan’s Story

Senior Mother and Daughter Drinking Coffee

Susan is a 42-year-old financial analyst. Her mom is an 80 year old woman who’s been living alone since her husband past away 6 months ago. Her mom doesn’t want to leave her home, but that is putting stress on Susan to check on her.  Susan begins the day by rushing her son off to school and checking on her Mom. After, she goes to work for 9 hours, and then back to Mom’s house.  By then, it’s time for her mom’s evening medication, dinner and cleaning up.  Around 8 p.m. Susan finally gets home.  She then checks her son’s homework, finishes the laundry and makes sure everything is ready for the next day. Susan doesn’t get to bed until midnight or later each night. Her days are long, she’s often tired and her stress level is growing.  She knows she can’t keep this up, but she doesn’t know how to find relief.  

Who is The Sandwich Generation?

Like Susan, members of the Sandwich Generation are middle-aged people who take care of their elderly parents and their immediate family.  Some sandwiches include extra responsibilities like grandkids, pets, work or maintaining the home. Meanwhile other sandwiches have fewer responsibilities. Nonetheless, being sandwiched between all these jobs is no easy feat for anyone.  

So What Does the Sandwich Generation Look Like?

Sandwich

Just like real sandwiches, no two “Sandwich Generationers” lives are exactly alike. But with that being said, they do share similarities. Each sandwich is composed of these parts:

Top Piece of Bread- This represents the physical or financial resources needed to support aging parents.

Veggies- The veggies symbolize taking care of yourself.  Just like the vegetables on a sandwich, taking care of yourself is often overlooked and goes neglected.  

Meat- The meat signifies daily tasks at home. Homes don’t run themselves. The laundry needs to get done. The house needs to be cleaned. The pets need to be fed.  

Condiments (optional): The condiments are the extra responsibilities that this generation may have. Some people are responsible for other family members and some aren’t. Other people who may need care include grandkids of your own, nieces, etc.

Bottom Piece of Bread: The other piece of bread symbolizes your kids. They are one of the most important responsibilities in the sandwich and a key component to what makes the sandwich, a sandwich.

So The Sandwich Generation is Growing, But Why?

There are two main reasons the Sandwich generation is growing:

Delayed Parenting- People are waiting longer to have children.  In 1990, only 9% of first-time mothers were over the age of 35. Today, 14% of mothers are over the age of 35. Delayed marriage and increased education are both factors in delayed parenting. 

Increasing Lifespans- People are living longer. The average life expectancy in the US in 1990 was 75 years of age as compared to 78 years today. Advancement in medicine and elder care is giving us more time with our loved ones.

How Can the Sandwich Generation Reduce Their Stress?

Three generations

Susan’s story has become the norm for many Americans. Studies show that 75% of Americans feel pressure to care for their elderly parents, physically or financially. The pressure to take care of your aging parents can feel overwhelming and unavoidable. How do you say “no” to a parent who cared for you your entire life?

It is unrealistic to think that you can take care of everyone. You can’t do everything and you shouldn’t have to.  Decide who your main priority is. Who needs more of your time, and who can do without?

Say your son has a soccer tournament all weekend, but Mom needs help cooking her meals. What do you do?  Well, you could run over there in between games, rush back, and become stressed. Or, you could prepare her meals in advance. It’s the little things you can do that will have a big impact on reducing your work load. 

Take a good look at your own life. Are there areas where you can reduce some of your stress and responsibility? Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your siblings and significant other. This could be the key to relieve some stress.

It’s important not to view life through rose-colored glasses. Perhaps Mom will soon need ongoing, in-home help. It’s necessary to be aware of this before you burn out doing the work of a full-time caregiver.

Finding Relief Through Alert1

Grandmother and granddaughter playing piano

Susan got her mom the Home Fall Detection Medical Alert System with the Medication Reminder and Organizer. Now, Susan doesn’t worry about Mom falling when she’s not there. Nor does she rush over to Mom’s house every day to organize Mom’s medication. She relies on the help from the Medication Reminder and Organizer to alert Mom when it’s time to take the correct medication.     

The key to surviving in the Sandwich Generation is to reduce your stress any way possible. Simplify your responsibilities any chance you get. By reducing stress, you and family will be able to enjoy the time with your aging parents. 

Comments

12:29 PM on September 29, 2016 Veronica Jones
That's such a funny term for my kids but it makes so much sense. It's hard enough having to take care of their own kids. Hopefully, I'm a lot easier to deal with :D
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