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The Sandwich Generation – Meet Marvin

This month, as the Aging at Home Association spotlights the unique experiences and challenges of those living as members of the Sandwich Generation, we will be highlighting real stories from real caregivers with responsibilities for both young children and aging parents.

In 2021, AAHA’s insurance partner, HCG Secure, conducted a survey and series of interviews among family caregivers. Here, we’ll discuss Marvin’s story and how his experience in the Sandwich Generation showcases the common issues that arise for those with multiple caregiving responsibilities.

Marvin is in his 40s, raising young children and working on building his career in New York City. Family caregiving has been a part of Marvin’s life for over a decade now. As his father battled Parkinson’s disease, Marvin helped his family navigate the complexities of care options. He vetted short-term care facilities, and ultimately nursing homes, where his dad could receive necessary care. He was also involved in finding and accessing quality care for his uncle and, more recently, took on greater responsibility for his mom.

Marvin faced immense financial responsibility in caring for his father. Just in his 30s, he found himself  organizing five years of statements and bills and then, for months after that, he was paying rent and utilities for his father’s apartment, all while starting a family and career.

Now, Marvin has taken on the caregiver role for his mother as she ages. For years his mom had been living with his sister and her family so when they moved to Florida, Marvin’s mother moved in with him.

In his interview, Marvin recognized the lack of support for those who have multiple caregiving responsibilities at home, and the financial gaps members of the Sandwich generation face when they are still at the height of career-building:

“The system is so focused on caregivers who are like 50s, 60s, 70s, and they don’t think about caregivers who are under 50, raising kids, and climbing the corporate ladder, having to do this. Having something reasonably priced but gives you the care at home if you need it before going into a facility would be great. If you don’t use the coverage, I show it to the funeral home and use it toward expenses or something.”

Despite the pride and love Marvin feels as he cares for his loved ones, he describes how the lack of caregiver supports makes the responsibility daunting. Because he’s cared for more than one parent, Marvin is in many ways better prepared than most for caregiving responsibilities, as he’s faced the ups and downs of caring trial and error; yet, he still describes the ongoing financial and emotional challenges that are so common among caregivers: “It was really one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, putting my dad in a facility… He saw himself and was like ‘I don’t want to be here (in a facility), but I see why you did it.”

This time around, in caring for his mother, he has been intentional in getting finances organized early, and feels a greater peace of mind knowing he has experience to guide him. He sees this as an opportunity to provide for his mom, as she did for him as a child, and is optimistic the lessons learned from his dad’s care will guide him and his mom through difficult periods.

Marvin’s caregiving journey has been long and challenging, and is likely familiar to those who have felt unsupported or lost in their caregiving responsibilities. In our next post, The Aging at Home Association will offer specific steps family caregivers and their loved ones can take to best support themselves, and those they care for.