The Sandwich Generation and caring for ageing parents

Many of this generation are unpaid care givers, and the caring alone can result in financial, physical and emotional hardship.The ‘Club Sandwich Generation’ (usually in their 40's, 50's and sometimes 60's) may be caring for their children, their parents and their grandchildren.Merriam-Webster officially added the term ‘Sandwich Generation’ to its dictionary in July, 2006.Now that people are living longer and children often need continued care as they grow up, the pressure is felt by both men and women in their fifties. Owing to the high cost of living and housing, many young people now return home after university to live back with their parents or continue living with them throughout college.Parents feel responsible for looking after their children longer than expected, while at the same time may be expected to look after the financial, emotional and health difficulties of their parents.This in turn can create financial difficulties for the children of ageing parents who are supporting up to 3 generations at the same time.

Although this can affect men and women equally, women are seen in society as more of a primary carer, providing physical, emotional and medical support where necessary.Depression and anxiety are common place among the ‘Sandwich Generation’ as looking after family members can be all consuming, leaving you at risk of losing your career or taking a reduction in salary. This pressure along with worrying about finances could result stress and emotional upset.Caregivers may also have to deal with feelings of isolation or guilt when they are being pulled in too many different directions at once and if their parents are suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, this can be particularly devastating.If you are struggling as a caregiver with several people to care for, hold a family meeting to decide the best way forward. Each family member (assuming they live close enough) should be able to dedicate some time to the older person in need of care, and perhaps lighten your burden.It is very important to actively communicate between yourselves and not to try to take responsibility for all of the care.

Nobody likes to describe their parents as a ‘burden’ but if they are needing more care on a daily basis, it may be time to look at other care options.If you feel between you that your parent or family member needs professional care or even daily help in the house, contact the local social services department for advice.Make sure you care for yourself or you will not be any good to anyone. If you feel you are not coping, join a support group of similar carers, take plenty of breaks and if necessary, find out more information about suitable care homes in the area or discuss residential home care for your ageing relative.