09 Mar 2020 The Plight of the Sandwich Caregiver
The emotional toll, time constraints and financial challenges faced by a caregiver taking care of a senior are many. Now picture them multiplied by roughly two – this is the situation that a member of the sandwich generation faces.
Sandwich caregivers, mostly women as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal Article, care for both older adults, often parents, as well as their own children. They are estimated to be part of a group of more than nine million people who care for people in generations on either side of themselves.
Sandwich caregiving is increasing due to several factors – longevity and the accompanying increase of serious physical and mental impairments that require extensive care, families having children later in life, and that many aging baby boomers are single at this point in their lives.
According to a November 2019 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and Caring Across Generations most sandwich caregivers have jobs and are in their 30s, 40s and early 50s. They work an average of 36 hours/week, spend 22 hours/week caring for an adult and also raise their own children. Most sandwich caregivers are between the proverbial rock and a hard place – work and caregiving. A third live in the same home as their parent(s).
If you are a sandwich caregiver, you should not forget that you also have your own needs. The WSJ article discusses several tips for those who care for children and elder family members.
Have boundaries on what you can give to those you care for. Everyone needs some “me” time so make sure you allocate it for yourself and communicate it to your family. If a sandwich caregiver doesn’t take care of himself or herself first, they may burnout and not be as effective in caring for others.
Prioritize what is essential and what is not and make sure the essentials are always addressed first. Adjust this list as needed to accommodate changes in your situation.
Call on others, such as a relative, friend or member of your social group, to lend a hand when needed, say for driving the kids to and from school or to a band practice. Kids can help with household chores.
To save time, use a delivery service for items such as meals, groceries or even dry cleaning.
Since caregiving can be very long term, investigate respite, adult day and in-home care. Check out which services are covered by Medicaid and Medicare.
Speak to your employer about flexibility in your work schedule, including times when you might be able to work from home.
Remember that you are doing a balancing act and what you balance can change over time. Some weeks you may have to devote more time to the senior and other times to your kids. Realize that this is normal and deal with it appropriately.
Sandwich caregiving is difficult, especially if you are single, but may be necessary in your situation. Don’t forget that there are several resources to ease your situation and take advantage of them when you can.