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The “Sandwich Generation” refers to a cohort of middle-aged adults facing the unique challenge of caring for aging parents while also raising young children or supporting an older child. The term has gained prominence in recent years as more and more adults find themselves in this position due to several trends and factors like longer lifespans and unemployment. According to Pew Research Center, almost a quarter of U.S. adults are a part of the Sandwich Generation. This accounts for more than half of adults in their 40s and 59 percent of people in their 50s who are ‘sandwiched’ between an aging parent and their children. Caring even for one person is a challenge but reconciling the needs of multiple generations adds many layers to the caregiving role. And while challenges are inevitable, if you are a part of this generation of caregivers, you are not alone, and you can take steps and leverage available resources to help your loved ones while also caring for yourself.

The rise of the Sandwich Generation

The growing number of adults considered a part of the Sandwich Generation can be attributed to a confluence of factors. Advanced research, medicine, and technology means an increased life expectancy and an aging population in need of support and with more complex care needs. In fact, the median age of the American populace was 28.1 years in 1970 compared to 38.9 years in 2023. According to the New York Times, the U.S. population is older today than it has ever been. Additionally, delayed childbearing and the high cost of education lead to adult children still financially dependent when their grandparents require care. Changes in family structures, geographic mobility, and limited access to affordable care services further exacerbate the caregiving burden. All these factors underscore the growing challenge faced by those balancing the care of aging parents with raising their own children.

The unique challenges

The Sandwich Generation confronts a multitude of unique challenges that accompany their dual caregiving roles. They are tasked with managing the diverse medical needs of both their aging parents and their own growing children, or the financial burden of supporting adult children in a precarious job market. This often entails juggling numerous appointments, keeping meticulous records, coordinating with various specialists, and navigating complex health care systems. And as primary caregivers in multi-generational households, they find themselves handling additional domestic responsibilities and physical labor, often leaving them physically and emotionally drained. The risk of caregiver burnout looms large as many struggle to find the balance between their roles, making it essential to recognize and address the difficulties faced by the Sandwich Generation.

The solutions

To address the challenges of a disjointed and overly bureaucratic medical system, those in a dual caregiving role can start by seeking an integrated care system, such as Kaiser Permanente, that simplifies staying healthy by consolidating all doctor visits into one building and uniting all medical records in one place. Susan Matthiesen, a Sandwich Generation parent notes, “I can go in and look at information for my elderly mother, and see how she’s doing, and what medication she needs or help make an appointment for her – at the same time that I’m checking up on information for my child.” 

Additionally, caregivers can connect with fellow caregivers by joining local support groups or engaging in online forums, fostering a sense of community and shared experiences. Community, whether through support groups, friends, or family, is an invaluable resource, not only for general support and advice but for help when things are overwhelming. It’s also essential for caregivers to practice self-compassion through positive self-talk and self-care rituals, both proven tactics to improve well-being. There are also resources and apps available to facilitate these forms of self-care. Additionally, managing stress is vital, and therapy can be a powerful tool. Convenient telehealth options make accessing therapy more feasible, and numerous apps and wellness resources can complement stress management efforts, ensuring that caregivers prioritize their own well-being amidst their dual caregiving roles

Much like our personal health issues, no one chooses to simultaneously become the primary caregiver of both their children and their parents, but you can choose how you manage the role, how you take care of yourself, and you can choose who you trust to take care of you and your family. 

For assistance with life care planning, access to telehealth services, and caregiver support, Kaiser Permanente is here every step of the way. Click Here to learn more about Kaiser Permanente and how they can support you and loved ones throughout your caregiving journey.

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