The Sandwich Generation

The “Sandwich Generation” has changed from the original 1981 definition, when it referred to those in their 30s/40s (mostly women) who had young children to care for, as well as aging parents.  Nowadays, the definition is broader, covering both genders with the “sandwich” age group, ranging from 40s up to 59 years, having aging parents and/or young or over-18-age children at home.

Statistics about the Sandwich Generation:

  • Approximately 43.5 million people are unpaid caregivers.
  • 80% of long-term care is provided by family or friends.
  • 66% of caregivers are currently employed women in their 50s or 60s.
  • $304,000 of income is lost annually by caregivers’ work absences.
  • One in four caregivers takes a leave of absence to care for family.
  • The average time devoted to caregiving is approximately 25 hours per week.
  • One in seven of the sandwich generation provides some level of financial support to parents or their children.

Ideas for the “Sandwich” Group:

Many are already well into the sandwich generation phase of life; this is a growing segment.  You may not be at the point of caregiving, but some general ideas on how to address that phase may be helpful.

Have the financial talk. Asking ones’ parents about their financial status might be uncomfortable; however, if you find that you need to help ensure that bills are paid, you need to know their financial picture. We’re not generally wired to share with our children how much money we have, or what our financial portfolio looks like; but for a caregiver, it’s important information.  Perhaps there are discount options for seniors available or free versus paid services available.  Giving them a hand in setting up or re-working a budget gives them (and you) a chance to see what money is coming into the home and where it’s being spent. That can be an eye-opening experience.

Equally important to the financial talk is the importance of remembering whose money it really is.  You may find yourself writing checks or paying online on behalf of a parent; but, at the end of the day, it’s their money, and they need to continue to be a major part of the process.

On the other side of the “sandwich,” teaching your children how to budget and save is just as important.  Having them sit with you occasionally when paying bills, teaching them how to write a check and balance an account, and sharing the family budget can give them a perspective on money management that will help them as they mature.  Learning to save for something can be a rewarding experience.

Seek caregiver help if needed. Not everyone is able to be a caregiver. Research local options for adult daycare opportunities, in-home care, or temporary assistance, as needed.

Make time for self-care.  With two generations looking to you for help, taking care of yourself is in everyone’s best interest. Be sure to carve out time for physical activity, whether sports, exercise classes, running, or yoga.  You need an outlet for your own health.  If hobbies are important to you, make time to enjoy being creative.  Don’t neglect your friendships—those may be your source of strength and an outlet during times of stress.

Love the time of caring. Everyone goes through cycles or phases of life.  Take time to enjoy the specialness and closeness of caring for parents, as well as children.  Use the lessons you learned as a child and pass them forward to your children while you care for your parents.

“Your life is made of two dates and a dash.

Make the most of the dash.”  ~Author unknown


Sources: (AARP Data)


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