July is Sandwich Generation Month, which brings an increased awareness to Sandwich Generation caregivers. Read more about these individuals, who they’re caring for and how you can help ease their caregiving burden this month.
Even if you’ve never heard of the “Sandwich Generation,” the odds are fairly good that if you’re reading this blog, the term describes you — it applies to 15% of adults aged 40-59. Caregivers in this generation are squeezed between caring for their senior parents and caring for younger family members, like their children.
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According to Today’s Caregiver, “the typical American Sandwich Generation caregiver is in her mid-forties, married, employed and cares for her family and an elderly parent, usually her mother.”
But does this generalization hold true?
The Pew Research Center suggests that now, Sandwich Generation caregivers are:
Being part of the Sandwich Generation isn’t necessarily cause for concern. Certainly, a higher percentage of the Sandwich Generation is likely to report being financially strapped and pressed for time, but despite the obvious reasons for increased stress, happiness rates are reported to be the same as other caregivers in general.
Of the caregivers who look after both aging parents and children:
31% report being very happy with their lives, compared to 28% among non-Sandwich-Generation caregivers, according to Pew Research.
In some cases, having both aging parents and children in the house can foster closer family bonds between the generations.
Being a Sandwich Generation caregiver can be a source of emotional and financial strain, despite the intangible rewards. So what can caregivers do to manage their time, relationships and budget?
Here are a few tips from the experts:
Resources such as the Area Agency on Aging or the U.S. Health and Human Services website, LongTermCare.gov, can help you figure out the logistics of caring for children and senior parents at the same time. Similarly, Kiplinger suggests getting in touch with an accountant or financial planner to figure out the realities of your budget. Doing this ahead of time, if you anticipate needing to care for elderly parents, can help fend off monetary difficulties down the road.
Caring for the caregiver is critical — staying healthy and getting enough rest means you’ll be in tip-top shape to care for your loved ones at home. But don’t be afraid to slow down, either, if your body is clamoring for a break. See a health care professional or look into a few days of respite care to enable yourself to recuperate.
Caregiving doesn’t have to be a one-person show. Today’s Caregiver magazine suggests splitting up the task list each week so everyone’s clear on expectations and what needs to be accomplished. Setting an action plan for the future can really help, too, says Kiplinger.com — especially if there are prospective financial challenges to manage, such as selling an elderly parent’s house.
The Kiplinger website also suggests getting children into the savings habit early. For adult children, they should make sure to contribute to a retirement plan, even if they are still relying on some support from you. When kids have to move back home, it can be difficult to think about charging them rent, but setting financial boundaries is key to managing a multigenerational household budget. Of course, an emergency is a different story, but if your children need long-term support, it’s time for another family meeting.
Are you a Sandwich Generation caregiver? What has your experience been like? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.