A Sandwich of a Different Sort

July 29, 2015

If you’re between the ages of 40 and 60 and caring for your elderly parents while raising and supporting your own children, you’re part of the sandwich generation. And you’re far from alone! A recent report by the Pew Research Center indicates that almost half of Americans your age are still raising children or supporting adult children while at the same time providing some level of care to their own elderly parents. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that July has been declared Sandwich Generation Month.

Inside The Sandwich

It’s truly a blessing to have three generations together – and in the past, it was common to have extended families living together under one roof. But there can also be a lot of pressure when two generations depend on you for emotional and financial support. That’s when your part in the sandwich can become stressful or even overwhelming.

Many sandwich generation adults feel pressed for personal time as they rush between work, family activities and elder care. They face the ongoing challenge of adjusting to new situations and new needs as their parents age. Finances can also become tight, leading to anxiety and sometimes depression.

As difficult as the situation may be for caregiver adults, other family members can also be negatively impacted by the “sandwich effect.” Children, especially adult children still living in the family home, can feel uncertain about their own life paths. They may wish for independence and regret their inability to achieve it. And, like their parents, they may begin to feel anxious and depressed about their lives.

And let’s not forget our elderly loved ones! They have their worries, too. Our oldest family members crave independence just as much as our children do. They face the physical challenges that come with aging, and many times they experience financial challenges as well. Many elderly folks worry that they’ve become a burden on other family members. Most importantly, while our elders value the time they spend with family members, they also need separate activities and interests.

Making The Sandwich More Delicious

No matter what role you play in your family’s sandwich dynamic, there will be challenges. Yet along with those challenges can come great rewards. To help keep all the members of your family – including yourself – happy and healthy, take a few important steps in the right direction:

  • Make use of family meetings

The best way to make sure everyone is getting what they need is to ask what they need. Use regular family meetings to set goals and expectations, and to get feedback on how well plans are working.

  • Assess your options

You don’t have to go it alone, and you don’t have to be all things to everyone. Find out where you can get some extra help and use it. Perhaps there’s a friend who will take your parents shopping each week, or maybe an adult child would be willing to cook a meal or two for the whole family. You’ll never know how much help you might have unless you ask for it.

  • Get help with financial planning

Even if you’re not worried about your finances right now, it’s best to prepare for the unexpected. Your adult children may need help setting financial goals for the future, and your parents may be looking for extra resources. You may want to start with this excellent guide from the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement.

Being part of the sandwich generation doesn’t require you to feel squished or stressed! Celebrate Sandwich Generation Month by spending some joyful time with your family – and then start laying the groundwork to keep that joyful feeling throughout the rest of the year.

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