The Sandwich Generation is growing in astonishing numbers. It’s causing millennials to become caregivers for their young children and elderly parents. Although many do what they need to without a second thought, they usually don’t have it easy. The job comes with incredible financial and emotional strain that can take a toll on families.
Studies show that this generation needs financial help and plenty of emotional support. It’s important to find ways to aid families through sandwich generation issues. This way, those involved can get the support they need for adequate care.
Who Is This Generation?
So, what exactly is the Sandwich Generation? This generation is what most millennials are now finding themselves a part of. It refers to the people who are caregivers to not only their own children but also their aging parents.
The term was first coined in the 1980s to describe the group. But, it has since grown drastically in numbers. Experts have since enveloped broader definitions of the generation. For example, the Sandwich Generation may also refer to those with adult children. They may have aging parents and even grandparents that they help support.
Sandwich Generation statistics are surprising. They show that many adults age 40 through 50 are raising either their young or teenage children. About 47% of those in this group also have at least one parent 65 or older. Another 15% of them are financially supporting both their aging parents and children simultaneously.
A study from 2015 shows that about 25% of millennials, those who are 18 to 34 years old, are now the face of the youngest Sandwich Generation. They are providing care to young children and their own parents. Since 84% of new mothers are millennials, the number of Sandwichers is only expected to grow in coming years.
And, many caregivers have either a full-time or part-time job while caring for both groups: 34% and 25%, respectively.
What Issues Do They Face?
No matter what age group caregivers fall into within this generation, they’re finding it equally as tough. As much as Sandwichers want to provide care, they’re losing themselves in the process.
Sandwichers often feel the need to be the one their children and parents can rely on. After all, they do rely on them for care, support, and finances. But, with the responsibility comes a huge amount of pressure that can take its toll on the caregiver and her family.
Some of the most common issues Sandwichers face are stress and financial strain. Sometimes, the stress and pressure compound so much that Sandwichers end up in a spiral of depression or anxiety.
Caregivers for two very different age groups have a lot of responsibility. There are important appointments to remember, routine care to provide, and emotional support to give.
Sandwichers must be there for those they care for physically and emotionally. If a child has a rough day at school, her dad talks her through it. If his elderly father needs help getting out of bed, he’s there for him. It’s a constant tug-of-war with a lot of pressure to always be there for the ones who need it.
Caregivers can easily feel underappreciated for all they do. They’re likely under a lot of stress that isn’t discussed because they’re so busy attending to others. A caregiver’s needs aren’t always as obvious as those they care for.
Sandwichers are likely to feel emotionally and physically drained most days. But, they continue not to talk about it to remain strong for their family members.
Sandwichers provide more than just emotional or physical support to those they care for. They obviously provide financial support to their growing children. But, they may also help their aging parents with finances.
An AARP study found that family caregivers spend an average of $6,954 per year to support their loved one. For many caregivers, that’s almost 20% of their income. Add to that the cost of supporting the caregiver’s own family, and not much is left for the Sandwicher.
So, what happens to the Sandwicher’s own retirement and safety funds? Unfortunately, they often get overlooked in lieu of financial support for others. Many caregivers of this generation need to cut into their own savings to provide for others.
Caregivers earning less than about $32,000 per year spend about 44% of their incomes on parent caregiving alone. This group of Sandwichers is often under the most financial stress. Between caregiving costs for parents and children, they can easily end up in debt, or with no savings of their own.
Anxiety and Depression
With everything the Sandwich Generation does for family members, it’s easy for them to get left behind. They’re faced with a constant balancing act between their own well-being and those they care for. Often, their family members win.
With little time to take care of themselves, Sandwichers may neglect their hobbies and interests. They also do not usually seek the emotional support necessary for their health.
These factors combined can easily spiral into depression and/or anxiety. Unfortunately, caregivers can battle mental illness for a long time with it going unnoticed.
How Can This Stress Affect Families?
When significant stress overwhelms one person in a family, other family members can become affected.
One of the biggest rifts comes between partners or spouses. When one provides the majority of care for an aging parent, the other may need to tend to their children and household more. Both parties have their own stressors, and they may begin to show resentment toward one another.
Other Sandwichers may simply not ask for the help they need, which can also lead to resentment. These caregivers shouldn’t need to do everything alone, but they often feel guilty asking for help. Over time, Sandwichers may resent their own siblings or partner for not jumping in to help more.
Caregivers may also begin to resent those they care for or vice versa. Boundaries need to be clearly set between being a caregiver and a family member. If not, both parties may feel as though they aren’t getting the respect they deserve.
What Help Do They Need?
The Sandwich Generation needs adequate financial and emotional support to do its job well. Fortunately, government officials are beginning to see the toll stress takes on family caregivers.
In 2015, Congress passed the RAISE Family Caregiver Act. Its purpose is to provide a clear strategy for assisting family caregivers through training and support. ‘Support’ includes financial, health care, and emotional assistance to caregivers.
Additionally, the Act protects family caregivers in the workplace. The government works to outline policies that will keep caregivers working. The goal is to reduce a caregiver’s fear of termination because of family duties.
But, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Sandwichers need significant financial and emotional support for their own well-being, too.
Many Sandwichers financially support not only their own households but also some of their aging parent’s. Not enough health coverage is a major issue that caregivers don’t get enough help with for the seniors they care for. Caregivers are left to pay lapses in coverage out of their own pockets.
Also, about half of parents who provide financial support to their grown children are their main supporters. Another 43% of parents have given their grown children at least some financial support in the past year.
Sandwichers need more financial support to secure their own futures. They need access to ways to save for retirement and earn a livable wage while caring for their families.
It’s important for aging parents and grown children to understand the financial stress of being a Sandwicher. Families can help relieve some of the financial burdens of caregivers. Downsizing costs of living and researching worthwhile investments can help all parties.
The best thing anyone can do for a Sandwicher is to provide emotional support. These caregivers usually put the needs of others over their own. If they don’t, they feel like a failure for not making ends meet.
Without the proper emotional support, Sandwichers can easily fall into depression. They’re not only dealing with their own stress. About 35% of Sandwichers admit that their aging parents rely on them for emotional support, too.
Of course, it’s important for aging parents to get emotional support. But, it’s equally as important for their caregiving children.
Sandwichers should not be afraid to ask for support if they need it. This includes physical, financial, and emotional support. Identifying main stressors and learning healthy ways to cope with them can help everyone in the situation.
A Sandwicher’s stress should be managed before he can adequately care for others. Keep lines of communication open for Sandwichers as much as possible. Offer to attend support groups or other community resources with the caregiver to show your support.
Sandwichers face several financial and emotional strains that often go unnoticed or uncared for. Unfortunately, many Sandwichers never get the support they need to take care of themselves as well as they take care of others.
Are you a Sandwicher? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this generation and the issues it faces in a comment!