Sandwich Generation - Stuck in the “Middle”?

The sandwich generation?  Are you in it?  Are you caring for both a child as well as an aging parent?  

At Amazing Over 40, we strive to address issues that are affecting YOU!  If you are in the sandwich generation, you are NOT alone!  

Meet Janice, a 43 year-old mother of 2 children and caregiver for her elderly mother, who has Parkinson’s disease.  Janice has needed to cut back her work hours to care for her mother and take her to her doctor’s appointments.  Trying to juggle all of the family obligations, the needs of her children as well as her mother, Janice is feeling overwhelmed and at the end of her rope. She came to see me a few days ago, feeling despondent, depressed, and burned out!

Let’s look into the sandwich generation more closely.  The term, sandwich generation, was coined by social worker, Dorothy Miller, in 1981 to refer to people in their 30’s and 40’s who were simultaneously caring for school-age children and aging parents.

According to a recent study conducted by Morning Consult of 1,000 US adults doing just this found that the majority of caregivers are within the Millennial and GenXer age groups. 

Here’s a review of timing for each generation.

  • Baby Boomers: 1946-1964 – 17%
  • GenXers: 1965-1980 – 40%
  • Millennials: 1981-1996- 39%
  • GenZers: 1997-2012 – 4%

According to this study, those born between 1965-1996 (average age of 24-55) accounted for over 75% of age for caregivers with many needing to decrease their regular work hours, like Janice above, adding more financial stress to the equation.

As Janice’s Ob/Gyn and a baby-boomer, myself, I needed to let her know that she was NOT alone!  Millions of households are going through this same scenario and many more will likely join as the number of people who are 65 or older is projected to increase by 2050 and many Americans are delaying childbirth to later in life.  I listen as she speaks about how difficult life has become and how this has also caused marital discord, with more heated arguments and resentment building, leading to much less intimacy with her husband.  Janice reveals to me that it’s really testing her marriage and fears possible separation or divorce.

Listening to Janice’s concerns allowed me to share my own experience, as a caregiver for my mother, who is battling the late stages of dementia.  Having someone to confide with and openly express fears and concerns helps those experiencing these hardships.  

Here are some tips for Janice and many others!

1. Delegate – You don’t have to do it all.  Children can pitch in with household chores, such as cleaning up their rooms, helping with dishes, and household chores.

2. Ask for help: from your partner and others.  This four-letter word, HELP, can be difficult for women to use and ask for, given they usually take upon the entire to-do list themselves.  Help is not a sign of weakness but of courage – to take care of yourself and respect your health.

3. Communicate: using up-to-date technology to update family members.  Rather than a lengthy phone call to each family member, a once weekly Zoom call can bring all together to see each other and relay information.  A group text on WhatsApp or using Lotsa Helping Hands ( www.lotsahelpinghands.com) can improve communication.

4. Be patient with yourself – realize that this is a very trying time and give yourself permission to vent, cry, feel overwhelmed/depressed, and burned out.  Please review my 5 tips for self-care that I shared last week. CLICK HERE!

5. Explore available resources.  Some of the best sites I found include:

    1. www.aarp.com/carefgivers
    2. www.carepatrol.com
    3. https://caregiveraction.org/

6. Take one day at a time.  I say this everyday – sometimes saying taking one hour at a time, and one breath at a time.  This helps me not become too overwhelmed or fear the future.  Stay present, in the moment, with yourself and your loved ones.  They may not be able to verbally express it but their gratitude shows in their smiles.

Recently, I interviewed Jacqui Clark, founder of agingwellpartners.com and certified senior advisor, assisting families in finding the right place for their loved ones and created a Youtube video - click HERE to watch! 

In health and happiness,

Dr. Diana

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