Surviving the Sandwich Generation

When adults have both small children at home and aging parents who need care, this "sandwich" can be a real challenge. In Episode 18 of the Family Matters With ReeseLaw podcast, How Do I Care for My Parents and Children, Kate Reese spoke with Jennifer Folsom, author of The Ringmaster: Work, Life, and Keeping it All Together, about her experience with this issue. Their conversation touched on some important ways to manage the additional responsibilities that come with being in the Sandwich Generation.

Recognizing Your Situation

It can be hard to realize that your relationship with your parents has evolved. Your whole life, you have looked to your parents for support and guidance, which is a hard habit to break. Sometimes a health issue makes matters apparent, such as Jenn's mother suffering from a stroke, which meant she needed immediate and constant care. But the transition is often subtle, and it is up to you to notice signs that your parents need your help. According to the National Institutes of Health, here are some signs of self-neglect that indicate your parent is no longer managing:

  • Hoarding
  • Failure to take essential medications or refusal to seek medical treatment for serious illness
  • Poor hygiene
  • Not wearing suitable clothing for the weather
  • Confusion
  • Inability to attend to housekeeping

Other signs that your parent is not managing on their own include weight loss or gain, unpaid bills, or unexpected mood changes. If your parent does not live close by, it may be harder to be aware of these changes, so if you suspect that they are struggling, make a point to visit more frequently, as even a short visit will reveal that they need assistance.

Marshal Your Resources

Just as there are support systems out there for helping your children, you can find many ways to manage your responsibilities towards your aging parents. Some of these are free or included as part of a paid benefit. Most state and local governments have departments on aging with resources like paid respite care that can take some of the burdens off of your shoulders. Your parents may have long-term care insurance, or their health insurance may cover some of their medical challenges. Many employers offer consultation with an aging care specialist as a benefit, so you should check with your human resources department to see what you have available. In addition, there are paid resources, like professional aging care specialists, who are trained and able to point you in the right direction. Facilities including independent and assisted living can be short or long-term solutions if a parent is going through a medical challenge. Home healthcare is another option.

Help Your Family to Help You

If you are finding your parents need more of your time and attention, you may feel like you are letting your children down. According to Jenn, this is an opportunity to teach your children some measures of independence. Of course, if the children are particularly young, this may not be possible, but older children can be taught to take up more chores around the house and gain a measure of independence that helps free up your time to help your parents.

Take Care of Yourself

You can only be there for your family if you are in good shape yourself. It is more important than ever to make sure you are tending to your physical and mental health. In addition, you should reach out to your support network for consolation and advice to avoid feeling isolated. It may feel like there is not enough time in the day to manage your responsibilities, but you need to treat yourself as one of these responsibilities and make time for self-care. For working adults, look for a balance between showing up at work 100%, and letting your team help you through a rough transition. Use your vacation and leave time, but make sure to plan for your absence so your team can have your back.

Being a member of the Sandwich generation can feel overwhelming. Taking a pause to assess the situation and being proactive in managing the challenges will go a long way toward alleviating the additional burden. If you need support about family law issues, ReeseLaw may be able to help, so contact us for a consultation.

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