The Sandwich Generation of Caregivers
It is a relatively new term in the world of caregiving and I wouldn’t be able to tell you who came up with that term but it is a graphic way of describing those caregivers who tend for their children and an elder relative. The sandwich generation of caregivers is not new, but it is certainly becoming more common as the elder community keeps growing at this fast pace.
Just as my favorite sandwich, a big and crunchy BLT, caregiving has a series of layers in which the caregiver is “squeezed” in between two generations. Caregiving is hard work, but even harder to try and balancing it with another equally demanding labor like work of tending for your children. Caregivers are constantly at risk of burning out and having an extra task can easily push them to the edge. Which is why it is important to keep in mind the different alternatives of respite support they can turn to.
Many describe the sandwich generation of caregivers as those in their mid forties, employed, with 2 or 3 children and an elder parent or close relative and all living in the same house. Of course this is just an example, there are many variations to it but this description is the norm in this community. It is also most common to find this scenario in rural areas since they are not close to any available and professional support service or care network that are usually found in cities and more industrialized zones with a higher population. It meets no racial or gender boundaries, no one is extent of this demanding role. It is a difficult situation that according to the online magazine Caregiver.com leads to interrogations like these:
There are many ways to fight the stressors that the sandwich generation of caregivers find along the way. The key to finding those tips and a helpful way to find balance is... communication. After all a happy family has a good communication among each other. Everyone should confident of sharing their thoughts and feelings of the situation they are living. getting everyone to share at least one meal each day can make the difference and avoid any conflict that could be based on misunderstandings. Constant family meetings to discuss and delegate some of the caregiving chores can help maintain a well organized routine.
From time to time the main caregiver should turn to respite care. Take a break from it all for their own good and well being. Take at least an hour a day to run personal errands, take a yoga class, go for a run, etc, anything but caregiving. Ask another relative to take charge of the caregiving tasks during this time, planning ahead and making a schedule can be very useful. If a relative is not available, there are many support services that offer respite care, these can be found online or through your local aging agency.
Caregivers often have feelings of loneliness and helplessness when this should not be the case. Many people and services are waiting to help them. A “sandwich” caregiver juggles with many tasks, a job that truly deserves recognition but often goes unnoticed. This generation must understand the importance of delegating some of the tasks to maintain a balanced life in their household but most importantly a good quality of life.