New Special Member Discounts Coming Soon!
Defining the Sandwich Generation

Juggling responsibilities for work, loved ones, finances, and health can be a challenge for everyone. For many, this balancing act is amplified when both aging parents and children require help and care from one person. Welcome to the “Sandwich Generation”. This summer, the Aging at Home Association will be sharing a series of blog posts highlighting the Sandwich Generation, unique challenges these individuals face, real stories from those experiencing this caregiving squeeze, and ways to support yourself or a loved one who finds themself in this growing segment of the population.

What is the Sandwich Generation?

The term “Sandwich Generation” was coined to describe adults who are “sandwiched” between two care-taking responsibilities. These individuals simultaneously care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. This dual role often brings unique challenges, emotionally, socially, professionally, and financially.

The Scope of the Sandwich Generation

To understand the scope of the Sandwich Generation, let’s look at some numbers. According to Pew Research, about 12% of parents with children under the age of 18 are also caring for their aging parents. This demographic is expanding as life expectancy increases and families delay having children until later in life.In 2021 AARP estimates the economic value of unpaid caregiving services to be $600 billion – 36 billion hours of unpaid care.

Challenges Faced by the Sandwich Generation

Being part of the Sandwich Generation comes with its own set of hurdles:

  1. Emotional Stress: Balancing the emotional needs of both children and elderly parents can be overwhelming. The constant switching of roles—from nurturing a child to providing care for an elderly parent—can lead to burnout, stress, and serious mental health challenges. According to the NIH, 29% of family or informal caregivers face depression, and half of those who provide 40 hours or more care weekly are diagnosed with depression.
  2. Financial Strain: Supporting two generations can stretch finances thin. Many in the Sandwich Generation find themselves paying for their children’s education, while simultaneously covering long-term care and healthcare costs for their parents. This dual financial burden can impede their ability to save for their own retirement, and continue the cycle that necessitates unpaid family caregiving.
  3. Time Management: The sheer amount of time required to care for both children and aging parents can leave little room for self-care. Work-life balance becomes more complex, and personal time and other relationships are often sacrificed.
  4. Career Impact: The demands of caregiving can affect job performance and career advancement. Many caregivers have to reduce their working hours, decline promotions, or even leave the workforce temporarily, which can have long-term effects on their career trajectory and financial stability.

The Silver Lining

While the Sandwich Generation faces significant challenges, there are also profound rewards. Many caregivers find a deep sense of fulfillment in supporting their loved ones. The bonds formed through caregiving can be incredibly strong, fostering a sense of closeness and mutual respect within families.

The Sandwich Generation represents a growing demographic that highlights the evolving nature of family responsibilities in modern society. Understanding the unique challenges faced by these caregivers is the first step in providing the support and resources they need. By acknowledging the stressors and employing effective coping strategies, members of the Sandwich Generation can find a balance that allows them to care for their loved ones without losing sight of their own well-being.

In our next post, we’ll discuss strategies for managing caregiver burnout and ways to support members of the sandwich generation in your life.