The sandwich generation is people who are caring for their aging parents along with their own children. You probably feel sandwiched between the older generation and the younger one. It is more likely that you feel pulled in multiple directions while trying to meet the needs of the two generations of family members. According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of US adults in 2022 are part of this sandwich generation. It is important to be aware of caregiving stress among the sandwich generation.
Though multi-generational care has existed for millennia, we are seeing an increase of the middle generation simultaneously caring for the older generation and the younger generation. This is due to people living longer and needing more help later in life and the middle generation waiting longer to have children. The result is instead of the older generation providing help with the youngest generation, they are needing help while the youngest generation is too young to care for themselves. This situation puts extra burdens and pressures on the middle generation.
Financial Cost to the Sandwich Generation
Caring for two generations of family members comes with costs, including financial costs. Even if your parents have enough money to meet their needs, you may have to forfeit work time to give unpaid time to caring for their needs and your children’s needs. Most appointments, for seniors and minor children alike, are during business hours, which means you have to take time away from work to shuttle family members to and from appointments as well as other activities.
Some members of the sandwich generation have had to put their careers on hold so they can simultaneously care for older and younger relatives. Some have had to give up full-time jobs and take part-time jobs. Reducing your income early or midway through a career can have long-lasting negative effects. You will have less money saved for retirement, large purchases, and emergencies. This is also true for having enough money to cover short-term expenses.
Emotional Cost to the Sandwich Generation
Raising children is a big commitment and can add enough stress to your life as it is. Add to that the responsibility for an elderly parent and possibly a job and you quickly run out of time for anything else, including you. This can mean that you give up taking proper care of yourself. You may end up forfeiting your social life, hobbies, exercise, or even much-needed sleep. These sacrifices can erode your ability to effectively deal with the stressful situation you are in.
Solutions for the Sandwich Generation
Juggling the time, energy, and economics of caring for two generations of relatives can seriously deplete your reserves. Finding ways to meet each person’s needs, including your own, is crucial to making the situation work. Though each family’s situation is unique and will likely require a unique solution, here are some things to consider trying that could help.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it is from another relative or a family friend.
- Look into places you can leave your elderly relative for a few hours or a whole day, such as adult daycare, a community center, a public library, or a community recreation center.
- The same holds true for your children. Look for daycare options and after-school activities for them.
- Plan as far in advance as possible for scheduling conflicts and financial expenses.
- Get your elderly relative to do their estate planning and elder law planning at least five years before they may need long-term care. Doing this can allow them to qualify for Medicaid or other government benefits when they will need them the most. Such benefits could help pay for long-term care needs, thus freeing up your time for other things.
Even though you may see taking care of your family members as your highest priority, keep in mind that you need to take care of yourself as well. In the same way flight attendants tell passengers to put their oxygen masks on before helping others with their masks, you can’t take care of others if you are unable to take care of yourself.
Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses. Also, the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.
This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.