You’ve probably heard the term “sandwich generation” (it was even added to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary). Basically, it refers to someone who is “sandwiched” between taking care of their aging parents while also taking care of their children or adult children. This type of caregiver is often pulled in two directions at the same time. Senior Living.org breaks it down even further by creating three types of sandwiches:
How common is this sandwiched caregiving?
According to the PEW Research Center, in 2013 47% of adults between the age of 40 and 50 who reported having an older parent also reported supporting a child (either a young grandchild or a young adult). You’re more likely to be doing this sandwiched caregiving if you are:
- Between the ages of 40-59 (71% of people surveyed fell into this age range)
- Married (36% vs 13% for unmarried individuals)
- Hispanic (31% vs. 24% for Caucasians)
The most common type of support needed is emotional support. 75% of adults with parents age 80+ report that their parents come to them for emotional support. The second most common type of support is financial support, especially for young adults who took longer to recover from the Great Recession.
A New Sandwich on the Menu
While Baby Boomers were referred to as the Sandwich Generation, their adult children have a new term for their cohort: The Panini Generation:
Like me, many educated, middle-class women in Generation X, those born from 1965 to 1980, are experiencing a different middle age than our mothers and grandmothers did. As a generation, X is small, a great baby bust, and we are now caring for the far larger generations that tower over us on either side—often while working full-time. […] I find myself drawn to a less friendly analogy: not that of fresh Wonder Bread slices gently squishing us, but that of panini grills pressing us flat. (Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/01/generation-x-women-are-facing-caregiving-crisis/604510/)
Gen X women are experiencing similar pressures to take care of their children and an aging parent, but they also have to juggle the pressure and expectations of their careers, a new challenge since more women are in the workforce. Another unique issue is that many Baby Boomers did not save enough money for retirement. This means that their Generation X children may be footing the bill for more than previous generations. Generation X is more likely to be divorced that previous generations, adding yet another unique complication to caregiving.
Tips for making it work
- Find a way to organize that works for you (especially for medical documents!)
- Look for ways that technology can help (e.g., Life Alert to help with falls)
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family for help
- Be up front about expectations– what are you willing and unwilling to do? How much are you willing to provide your adult child with financially? For how long?
- Be flexible- things will never be perfect, do your best
- Practice self-care, whatever that looks like for you (check out the Ahead of the Curve Blog for self-care ideas)