Family Caregivers Recognized as Heroes During Sandwich Generation Month
July is Sandwich Generation Month: Griswold Home Care’s founder Dr. Jean Griswold established the month of observance in 2007, as a way of providing members of the Sandwich Generation with educational resources, community support, and recognition during the month of July. Since its founding, Sandwich Generation Month has been proclaimed an official month of recognition in states across the nation.
Carol Abaya, M.A., who is credited with coining the term ‘Sandwich Generation’, notes that “Being part of the Sandwich Generation is a new role and stage of life for which no one can ever rehearse. Adult children now must take a leadership role in aging parent relationships, make tough decisions, and in essence, become a parent to a parent. Roller coaster emotions dominate. Just remember you are not alone and there is no magic wand to deal with these tough new challenges.”
The Sandwich Generation is a growing phenomenon as improved healthcare and nutrition allow for longer American life expectancies. Many studies show that women commonly spend 17 years of their life taking care of their kids and another 18 years taking care of their parents. Today’s baby boomers are researching colleges for their children while also researching in home care options or nursing homes for their parents. While some adult children live nearby their aging parents, according to the Pew Research Center, 22% of American households are now comprised of at least three generations under the same roof.
For some busy professionals, the balancing act is very personal if aging parents are not nearby.
“Like millions of people around the country, my wife and I are both busy professionals with a toddler at home and commitments in our community. My parents’ health and wellness is a significant concern for us and we’re committed to doing the best job we can in helping them. Having them several states away can oftentimes causes us anxiety – especially when bad weather strikes or other unique situations arise. After so many years of them taking care of us, this is an entirely new role for each of us and it can be tricky. ” says Graham Weihmiller, Chief Client Advocate & CEO of Griswold Home Care.
The emotional and financial stress of caring for two generations, aging parents as well as children, can manifest itself in many ways. Oftentimes adults in the Sandwich Generation find themselves fatigued, overwhelmed and distracted during work or everyday tasks.
“There are challenges in the Sandwich Generation: too little time, too little money, too little help. There are demands from every direction, especially for those of us trying to balance a career in the mix. My mother is 90 and has Alzheimer’s and I’m determined to keep her at home. I care for her two hours a day so our Griswold caregiver can take time off.” explains Lesley Mills of New Haven, CT who has run her own business for over a decade and finds herself in the Sandwich Generation.
Balancing these responsibilities can also be managed by working with home and community-based providers. “We have the best of both worlds while balancing our family daily life. We do not do it alone, and we are fortunate to have a professional caregiver for our mom, as well as siblings, and supportive family and friends.” says Mirza Donegan of Aspen Hill – Wheaton, MD. .
Critical Resources for the Sandwich Generation:
- Griswold Home Care’s blog, CaringTimes, is a resource for individuals seeking at home care information. Articles written by RN and Certified Senior Advisor, Diane Walker, educate families on topics related to healthy aging and managing decisions for aging adults.
- FamilyCareGiving101.com gives pragmatic advice and resources based on the six stages of caregiving.
- Check to see if you or your aging parents are eligible for benefits ranging from health care cost to utilities and property tax relief. benefitscheckup.org
- Find an Adult Day Care location to give yourself a break during the work day: nadsa.org
- Join up with local volunteer groups viia the Caregiver Community Action Group
Advice for the Sandwich Generation:
- Have the talk with your aging parents about their wishes and be realistic about your ability to directly provide care and the financial resources needed to keep them safe.
- Prioritize your own needs. You may feel that your children or your parents’ needs should be prioritized, but it’s important to recharge your energy and take care of your own needs in order to properly care for theirs.
- Ask for help. There’s no reason that caring for your parents and your children should fall solely on your shoulders. Ask siblings, spouses and other family members for support when possible. This can be as simple as having your sister pick the kids up from school or scheduling a doctor’s appointment for your parent.
- Look for care alternatives. If having your parents move in with you is stressful to yourself as well as other members of your household, consider in-home respite care. This type of service can shift some of the responsibility of caregiving to professional caregivers, giving you more energy to take care of yourself and more time to actually enjoy life with your parents as their son or daughter.