WHAT IS THE SANDWICH GENERATION?

The Care-Co-Operative suggests how the Sandwich Generation can seek help

Merriam-Webster officially added the term ‘Sandwich Generation’ to its dictionary in July, 2006.

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ (usually in their 40’s and 50’s) is a generation of people who support their ageing parents while also caring for their own children.

Many of this generation are unpaid care givers, and the caring alone can result in financial, physical and emotional hardship.

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ may be caring for their children, their parents and their grandchildren.

Now that people are living longer and children often need continued care and support, emotional and financial, as they grow up, the pressure is felt by both men and women in their fifties, often at a time when they are working harder than ever. 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 provide support for the financial, emotional and health difficulties of their own parents. Recent newspaper articles are piling on the pressure, holding families to account for delayed discharges from hospital, and the added burden this brings to the NHS.

Seeking care from professional services can create financial difficulties for the children of ageing parents who can be 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. Many women (born in the 1950s) have just found out that rather than retiring at a time when they might be of use to their ageing parents their own state pension age has increased and they must continue to work.

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 in stress and emotional upset. While childcare support is often embedded into employment, other caring responsibilities are not. (If not, ask your employer how they can help, and if you are in a trade union ask them too!)

Caregivers frequently 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. There are a number of agencies providing support to carers. Carer’s UK can also help with any applications for financial support. And look out for carer’s groups run by local authorities or volunteers in your local area – the Alzheimer’s Society has a great local network for example.

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 load.

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 they are already in a Care Home try The Relatives and Residents Association.

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. Age UK offer a free helpline and expert advice on how to get the support and care you or a family member need.

If you are looking for ways to reduce the cost of care and your older relative has been assessed as needing to pay the full care fee, have a look at the Care Co-Operative. Joan Mansfield, founder of the Care Co-Operative is herself a member of the ‘Sandwich Generation’ and comments: “I understand how difficult it is to juggle financial pressures while coping with the emotional turmoil of caring for an elderly relative. At the Care Co-operative we offer a service that helps care providers advertise a discounted service to self-funding care seekers. In return the care providers receive more enquiries. It really is a win-win situation for all involved and offers great value for money.”

Although it can be difficult carrying the responsibilities, don’t forget to enjoy your extended family – not everyone is privileged to have the experience.

Read our blog on the sandwich generation here