Dorothy Miller, a social worker, first created the term “sandwich generation” in 1981. A Journalist, Carol Abaya, continued to study and add to what the term means. In 2006, Miriam Webster included the term, sandwich generation, in the dictionary for the first time. The sandwich generation is defined as a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. It is believed that this is occurring because of the increase in life span for adults and also because of delayed parenting. This means that medicine and technology are allowing people to live longer and couples are waiting to start families at a later age. Therefore, leaving people sandwiched between caring for aging loved ones and young children. This can lead to some potential problems for the sandwich generation.
Issues for the Sandwich Generation
One major issue for the sandwich generation is financial burdens. Because many in the sandwich generation may not have anticipated having to provide for the needs of their aging parents, they may be stretched thin financially. Another issue for this group that is often compounded by financial struggle is stress. When pulling double duty of caring for children and aging parents, stress is an understandable and expected side effect. Whatever the living situation of the aging parent, the responsibilities of caring for the aging parent often adds to the already busy schedule related to parenting their own children. The sandwich generation then fills pulled in too many directions. This can often leave them feeling as though they do not have enough of themselves to give to everyone they need which in turn leads to guilt and burnout.
If these issues continue to mount, then depression can become another issue for the sandwich generation. Depression can set in when the sandwich generation has little time for hobbies or social interactions, leaving them feeling isolated. The stress and financial burdens can contribute to feelings of depression. The bottom line is that the sandwich generation must recognize these potential problems and find ways to deal with them. Otherwise they will be ineffective in their care for aging parents and their own children and the pressure will continue to mount.
Dealing with Issues for the Sandwich Generation
In order to be a good caregiver, the sandwich generation must find ways to take care of themselves and to ask for and accept help when necessary. One way for the sandwich generation to find time for themselves is respite care. Respite care provides short-term relief from caregiving responsibilities. Respite care provides a way for caregivers to find time for themselves and take care of family responsibilities.
Caregivers can plan ahead for tasks and finances to help tackle stress and financial burdens. Having a family meeting to delegate responsibilities to other family members can be very beneficial. This means giving up some things to the spouse and children. Extended family can also help to share the responsibility of caregiving, so meeting with siblings or other involved family members to share the task of caring for the aging parent can help to lessen the burden on one person. Having a close friend to talk to about the struggles can also be a very therapeutic way to deal with the stress experienced by the sandwich generation.
Being a member of the sandwich generation has many challenges. The demands on a person caring for aging parents while also raising their own family can be overwhelming. Self-care is essential to avoiding the pitfalls associated with caregiving. In addition, it is important to remember that it is perfectly acceptable to seek or ask for help in order to maintain mental health and provide good care for everyone.
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