Perhaps more now than ever before, adults are caring for both their children and their parents. This leaves adults caught in an especially challenging position. It’s rare to see children move out the day they turn 18, many in fact are staying “home” well into their twenties thanks, in part, to the economy and difficulty finding jobs. But what’s more stressful (financially and beyond) is adding family members on the other end of the spectrum – aging parents and relatives who may move in. The number of people who are sandwiched between these generations is growing. These folks must provide health care and support for their families and this is no easy task. Tayla delves into this topic in her post and offers some tips for anyone who may be in this position. –Amanda
Between a Rock and a Hard Place – The Sandwich Generation
by Tayla Holman
We’ve already talked about the “skip generation” – grandparents raising their grandchildren when the parents are unable to – so now it’s time to talk about the “sandwich generation.” The sandwich generation consists of baby boomers who are not only taking care of their children, but their parents as well.
As of 2009, there were about 20 million adults making up the sandwich generation and, as with most caregiver statistics, it is primarily women who are saddled with the responsibility of caring for both their parents and their children. Almost 2/3 of caregivers are women, and more than 80 percent are caring for a relative that is 50 years old or older. The average caregiver in the United States is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours of unpaid care.
As with most caregiving, being the “meat” in a sandwich generation can be incredibly exhausting mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. Caring for growing or grown children – those that have moved back home after college after not being able to find a job or being laid off – as well as aging parents is expensive. And with more people living longer, healthier lives, many elderly parents are choosing to remain in their homes as opposed to assisted living facilities or retirement homes. The cost of transportation, hospital visits, medication, etc. adds up quickly.
Last year, President Obama introduced a proposal to spend $102.5 million to help those who are caring for their elderly parents as well as their children. Unfortunately, a recent study by the AARP found that family caregivers do $450 billion worth of unpaid work, a $75 billion increase since 2007.
Caregiving in general is no easy task, but being sandwiched between taking care of children and parents is especially hard. Here are some tips for how to manage the responsibility.
- Ask for help. – Caregiving is often a one-person job, but if you have family or friends that are willing to help, let them. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed; you are not superhuman and can’t be expected to do it all alone.
- Make time for yourself. – You won’t be able to take care of anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. Make sure you are paying attention to your own needs as well as those of the person you are taking care of.
- Crunch the numbers. – Take some time to get your finances in order. Figure out how much you can afford to put away for retirement, for your children’s college education, medical costs, and any other expenses. Make sure you have a safety net in case of an unexpected emergency.
Are members of your community also members of the sandwich generation? How do discuss managing the responsibility of caring for parents and children? What advice do you have for others juggling the two?