Caring for Kids and Parents: Help for the Sandwich Generation

What’s your favorite kind of sandwich? Roast beef and cheddar? Peanut butter and jelly? Hummus and veggie? Sandwiches, much like us, are diverse and varied, sometimes simple, sometimes complicated. But they always have one thing in common: the middle component holds it all together. If you are caring for kids and parents at the same time – you are the middle component holding it all together.

July is Sandwich Generation Month – the month to celebrate that middle ingredient, that’s holding it all together. Do you find yourself in the middle? Caring for your own children on the one side, while caring for your parents on the other side. Being in the middle can be isolating, with everyone relying on you. But you are not alone. We can help.

Who is in the Sandwich Generation? 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average member of the Sandwich Generation is a woman in her 40’s or 50’s, whose children and at least one parent either live with her or rely on her for financial and other assistance. She is married and has a career. Of course, the demographics of the Sandwich Generation vary widely. Men have joined the force of caregivers, sometimes serving the role full-time while their wives serve as the primary breadwinners. Caregivers can be younger or older, depending on the health of their parents and age of their children. Depending on individual career demands, some are able to work full time, some switch to part time or telecommute, others take a leave of absence.

Challenges when Caring for Kids and Parents  

Being in the middle of the Sandwich brings particular challenges. Caregivers find their time and energy squeezed between the generations on either side, who rely on them. In a Huffington Post article, “The Sandwich Generation: Caring for Children and Parents,” author Ellen Dolgen says that in addition to financial and physical strain, caregivers feel an emotional burden, trying to be “a rock” for every generation and individual in the family. It’s that sense of responsibility for family members that drives sandwiched caregivers to exhaustion.

caring for kids and parents

Cultivating Mutual Support

In the Alzheimer’s Association Shriver Report, Maria Shriver encourages creative, supportive interaction between children and the elderly, through shared experiences and outings. The joy of being sandwiched is both giving and receiving care. Those on either side of you, although dependent upon your love, are often able to give a certain level of care as well. Look for ways they can support each other and you in their own capacity. The older generation may be able to help with homework or share those irreplaceable family stories. The younger generation might be able to pick up a few simple chores to learn the value of compassion for others.

How Sandwich Generation Caregivers Can Ask for Help

The key to a stress-free, or at least less-stressful, sandwich situation is asking for help. Here at Lotsa Helping Hands, we help caregivers create an online caring community, to bring balance and relief to every day life. Siblings and other family members who live far away can keep up to date and can even sign-up to help coordinate deliveries, mail, and other logistics. Knowing there are others ready to help and keeping everyone informed brings peace to an otherwise chaotic situation. Are you a member of the Sandwich Generation? Share in the comments below how you overcame some of the unique challenges and how you’ve been able to ask for help.