The term “sandwich generation” was first coined in 1981, but that sandwich seems to get thicker every year. Being a “sandwich” caregiver means that a son or daughter is caring for an elderly parent at the same time that he or she still has children at home.
There are a number of reasons for this growing demographic, one of which is that many couples delay starting a family until one or both partners are in their mid to late 30s, meaning they could still have children at home when their own parents are 70 or 75. The recession and the rising cost of college has created a situation where many people in their 20s still depend on their parents for financial support, which means the period of financial dependency has expanded from 18 years to 25 or even 30.
At the other end of the spectrum, people are living longer, and they are living longer with debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Finding the resources to save for a child’s college education while also trying to figure out how to finance care for a parent and be overwhelming.
And the truth is when a couple decides to start a family, they may not know exactly what they are signing up for, but they know they are responsible for their children until they are adults. With elder care, the lines of responsibility and the length of service are rarely that clearly defined.
Even though there may be several siblings involved in the care of an elderly parent, one of the siblings usually winds up shouldering a disproportionate amount of the work. What we often see is that it isn’t the sibling with the most time or resources who takes on the primary caregiver role, it’s the sibling who decides that he or she wants to do it, or decides that if he or she doesn’t do it, it won’t get done.
In cases where a parent receives a diagnosis of a chronic disease such as COPD, rheumatoid arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, no one can say how fast the disease will progress. Providing 24/7 care for a parent for a year or two is one thing, but providing care for five to 10 years is another story.
Unfortunately, caregivers who choose to “do the right thing,” often experience their own negative health consequences. That’s right. Stress can cause or aggravate a number of health conditions that can adversely affect quality of life, or even shorten it.
At Daystar Retirement Village we don’t have any easy answers, but we think it’s important to at least acknowledge the situation. We understand that this is a tough row to hoe.
Staying involved in your elderly parents’ care needs IS the right thing to do, but you need to carve out time for yourself and your own children as well. If your parent needs on-going care, it’s likely that if you try to shoulder all the responsibility on your own, you’ll pay the price in your own compromised health. At Daystar we understand that our families are juggling many competing demands and priorities and our goal is to become an extension of those families, so that our residents always feel cared for and supported, and their families do too.