As we enter the productive age, most of us have gained financial wisdom where we have been able to manage our income to meet our needs properly. Even more, some of us have successfully created a handsome profit in the form of savings to the point of having the ability to expand our lifestyle. This also means that we have the financial means to provide, not just for our own but also for others, such as: our family.
With quite a hefty budget from our income, there comes the responsibility. As the elderly population grows, it has put the productive agers on a financial strain where they have to care for both their children and parents simultaneously. By all means, the individuals ‘sandwiched' between ageing parents and adult children are adequately referred to as ‘the sandwich generation'.
What Is The Sandwich Generation?
Demographics finds the sandwich generation accounts for about 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s who have a parent 65 or older and are also raising a youngster or supporting a grown child. In fact, 1 out of 7 adults is financially assisting both their parents and one or more children. However, there are many scenarios in this situation, and ageing and elder care expert Carol Abaya offers three roles those in the sandwich generation typically fall into:
- The Traditional Sandwich Generation — Adults typically in their 40s or early 50s sandwiched between their elderly parents and their typically adult children who both need financial or other assistance.
- The Club Sandwich Generation — Older adults in their 50 or 60s who are wedged between ageing parents, their adult children and possibly grandchildren. This term can also refer to younger adults in their 30s or 40s who have younger children, elderly parents and ageing grandparents.
- The Open Faced Sandwich Generation — Anyone who's non-professionally involved in elder care, which is an estimated 25% of individuals at some point in their lives.
The term ‘sandwich generation' is becoming so commonplace that it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2006. However, the dictionary fails to mention the heavy financial and emotional stress that being a part of this generation can cause on caregivers.
The Multiple Stress Factors
While the number of sandwich generation's members having increased dramatically, statistics show that the financial burdens associated with being responsible for multiple generations are rising. Interestingly, it's primarily not elderly parents or grandparents posing the burden, but rather their adult children.
Estimated for almost 30% of 25-34-year-olds reside with their parents, with more post-college youths coming home to live with parents or doing so throughout school. Essentially this leaves parents taking care of many of their children's financial burdens in addition to tending to other responsibilities they may bring about.
As if this isn't stressful enough, those amid the sandwich generation are handed double duty by also wanting or needing to help take care of their ageing parents. This puts the sandwich generation in a role that many consider far more their responsibility than taking care of adult children. The burdens of medical costs, helping with daily activities and other concerns can take a physical and emotional toll on top of ongoing financial concerns.
With so many stressors, the sandwich generation often experiences psychological issues such as burnout and feelings of depression, guilt and isolation. It’s only natural as they constantly struggle with being pulled in multiple directions every day. Additionally, with the issue of finding the time to be a good spouse, parent, and child simultaneously, the sandwich generation often encountering trouble managing work, hobbies, relationships and time for themselves.
Tips for Members of the Sandwich Generation
The primary mission of a caregiver is to keep everyone safe, happy and healthy — therefore, it’s easy for them to neglect their own needs. Fortunately, these tips can help reduce stress in the family, help relieve financial burdens and promote a more positive experience.
- Help financially dependent adult children get started in the world with job tips, advice, etc.
- Consider having ageing parents move into your home to curb expenses.
- Set boundaries with each party by agreeing to provide them with a set amount of support each month or year for pre-determined expenses.
- Tax benefits for the elderly and for children of a certain age enrolled in higher education often qualify for tax benefits and breaks. Medical expense claims can also reduce federal tax liability.
- Keep the doors of communication open at all times concerning expectations of family members, and attempt to resolve any noted issues quickly to keep stress levels low all around.
At the end of the day, the most vital aspect of being a successful sandwich generation caregiver is to be kind to yourself. Self-care is essential, yet can be easily neglected when your time is balanced ever so cautiously between navigating all of your family member's needs. Be sure to take proper care for your daily needs as well as doing things you enjoy, and never hesitate to ask for help when it's necessary.