Tips to Help Members of the Sandwich Generation Balance Responsibilities
The sandwich generation is one of the many terms that define caregiving. As you can guess, the term has nothing to do with two pieces of bread spread with peanut butter and jelly.
Rather, the sandwich generation refers to those who currently are raising children or supporting an adult child while also being fortunate enough to have a living parent 65 or older.
Sandwiched between generations
Middle-aged adults sandwiched between generations are primarily 40 to 59 years of age. According to the Pew Research Center, 36 percent are married, compared to 13 percent who are single. Not too long ago, I was a member of the sandwich generation.
The prospect of my mother’s condition, coupled with raising the little kids who loved her, made the diagnosis even more daunting. We had little knowledge of what to expect or how we’d navigate raising kids while also keeping Mom healthy and happy.
There are challenges to raising children while also caring for an aged parent. One of the primary challenges is financial. The cost of care for an aging parent is a concern, especially when the caregiver is also responsible for raising a growing family.
We were fortunate. My father, who passed away a few years after Mom’s diagnosis, left her the means to live comfortably under our care. It is unfortunate that many caregivers don’t have the reserves to care for an aged parent. However, it is possible to create a plan that ensures proper care for the future.
Have a frank discussion with your parents regarding future care. Would they prefer to live in an assisted care facility or with a family member, or to receive in-home care?
After gathering as much information as possible, request permission to go over important financial documents, such as monthly bills, bank and mortgage statements, insurance policies, income tax returns, and retirement and pension benefit information, for example. Involve a professional financial planner to help with long-term solutions to financial needs.
Additionally, make an appointment with an attorney specializing in elder law. They can advise your loved one on estate planning and other legal matters surrounding their future.
Being a member of the sandwich generation often means splitting time between kids who need you and a parent who requires specified attention. Caregiving presents urgent situations that are forced to the forefront, while ballet recitals, soccer games, and spelling bees are relegated to the backseat. This leaves the parent riddled with guilt.
Keep guilt at bay by remembering the following:
- You’re only human. You can’t be in two places at the same time, so give yourself a break and then talk with the kids. Lovingly explain why you couldn’t attend their function. Give them the chance to be empathetic. They may surprise you.
- When you finally are able to attend your child’s function, be truly present. Avoid distractions, like being on the phone or texting. When you choose to be fully present, your child will be more apt to forgive you the next time caregiving responsibilities keep you away.
- Plan in advance and ask for help. Investigate local adult daycare centers in your area or enlist trusted friends and family members to lend a hand so that you can sneak away with your child from time to time.
Perfect balance between caregiving and parenting is elusive, probably even impossible, but you can find a happy medium between the two.
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