We are the Sandwich Generation. Adults between the ages of 40 and 60 who are raising children and taking care of elderly parents. July has been dedicated as Sandwich Generation month to acknowledge the tireless efforts of those who are working so hard to keep multiple generations healthy and thriving.
Some interesting stats: 1 out of 8 Americans in this age group is raising a child and taking care of an elderly parent; 7 to 10 million adults are trying to care for their parents from long distance; the number of Americans over the age of 65 will double by 2030 to 70 million.
The cause that has created this new generation is that more and more people are living into their 80’s and 90’s while their families are scattered all over the country. It is affecting about 25% of American families in one way or another. There are medical issues, financial issues, legal issues, emotional issues. Siblings may not agree on various ways to handle these issues. And for children trying to parent their parents, the role reversal is difficult.
There are things to consider, such as how to balance your time between your children and your parents, is it putting a strain on your marriage, can you have any time for yourself, how to deal with the guilt for not having enough time and energy for everyone.
I was part of the Sandwich Generation for a little over 15 years. My father developed colon cancer and needed to be taken to the doctors, hospitals, tests, radiation. My mother was too old to deal with it all. My children were 6 and 8 years old when it started. After 4 years of deal with his illness, he passed away. A year or so later, my mother was diagnosed with Altzheimer’s. She was disagreeable, argumentative and had bouts of paranoia and experienced hallucinations from her medication. My children were in their early teens. At the same time I was diagnosed with cancer and my in-laws both ended up in nursing homes. I don’t know how my husband managed it all. It felt like the sky came crashing down on us. We didn’t know where to split ourselves first and we had my health to think about. Thank God my girls were good and focused on school, but I still had to watch over them because the teenage years are rough and we, as a family, were going through a lot. Somehow, one day at a time, we got through it all and came out okay on the other side.
I never expected to be a part of the Sandwich Generation. The term was coined at around the same time it was happening to us. I really think this should be publicized more so there is more awareness. Maybe people can take steps to prepare themselves, their parents and their siblings for the eventuality that this may one day occur. Often times it happens suddenly and without warning and you are thrown into a whole new set of overwhelming circumstances.
Had I been more aware I think I would have at least done some research and discussed things with my brother ahead of time. It’s very hard to think clearly after the fact, when emotions are running high and you are exhausted.
There is information and advice readily available online. It’s worth looking at it because this Sandwich Generation business is too big to swallow