Can you imagine taking care of your parents and your children while working simultaneously? Many people find themselves thrust into being caregivers and maintaining their other duties. These caregivers face financial and health struggles while doing all these jobs.
We always hear about the generations like the baby boomers and the millennials in the news. One generation is getting more and more attention, and the stress they deal with affects them day and night.
About a quarter of U.S. adults (23%) are now part of the so-called "Sandwich Generation," according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2021. These are adults who have a parent aged 65 or older and raise at least one child younger than 18 or provide financial support to an adult child.
More People Find Themselves ‘Sandwiched’
Being a caregiver and responsible for a parent while juggling their responsibilities as a parent and spouse is not an easy task, but more Americans must face this struggle.
Americans in their 40s are the most likely to be sandwiched between their children and an aging parent. Fifty-four percent have a living parent aged 65 or older and are raising a child younger than 18 or have an adult child they helped financially in the past year.
This group of people is actually caught in the middle, trying to help both older parents and children. Many in this generation have careers at the same time. The stress is hard to imagine unless you have been in their shoes yourself.
Worldwide Aging Creating a Crisis for Families
We have a rapidly growing population of older people, with over 54 million adults aged 65 and older. Many couples start having children at older ages. The average age of first-time mothers in the United States is now 26. We see the same trend worldwide with women in other developed countries, with the average age of first-time motherhood now age 31.
"Sandwich Generation" was coined in 1981 by a social worker named Dorothy A. Miller. She used the term to describe adult children responsible for taking care of their elderly parents and their children at the same time.
Tami Anastasia is an author and Alzheimer's and dementia counselor. Speaking in a webinar hosted by Belmont Village Senior Living explained that the emotional and physical struggles associated with prioritizing care should not be overlooked.
"Resentment doesn't occur right at the beginning of the caregiving journey but is rather built up over time. This provides a significant dilemma among the 'Sandwich Generation' as they often feel they must handle care on their own without professional help or help from friends and family. A common example is the tendency of family members to resent other family members who receive overt praise for doing what they perceive in their eyes as the bare minimum," Anastasia said.
Caregivers Have Multiple Responsibilities
Being a caregiver for an older parent is hard enough, but the reality is that it is not the only responsibility in the caregiver's life. Care recipients often understand the burdens they place on their families, which adds to the depression of being dependent in their older years.
While nobody wants to be a burden, most families were unprepared for what is often a natural part of life - aging. People need help with daily living activities for many reasons, including an illness, accident, or the frailty of aging. Without planning, a family crisis occurs, and adult children must juggle the responsibilities of caregiving and being a parent themselves.
Even if financial resources are available to pay for professional care, someone must manage the caregivers and fill in the cracks. Since the costs of professional care are rapidly increasing nationwide, personal finances may not last long enough, and family members still end up becoming caregivers.
Coping is Vital When Being a Caregiver
Being able to cope with the stress and physical demands of being a caregiver and a member of the 'Sandwich Generation' will make the journey easier.
Anastasia talks about a powerful set of "S.A.C.R.E.D.©" coping tools – a memorable acronym and self-care guide for "Sandwich Generation" families comprised of the following tenets:
Stop "should-ing" yourself. Don't give in to self-defeating thoughts about what you "should" do. Instead, replace "should" with what you can, will, and want to do as a caregiver.
Acknowledge your own feelings and emotions and the ones of those around you to gauge how you're doing emotionally and recognize ways to be proactive.
Comfort and compassion are critical. You're more likely to feel caring and compassionate for others when you afford yourself the same. Find ways to incorporate comfort and compassion in your own self-talk.
Ways to Make it Easier
Anastasia offers advice for those caring for their aging parents. These suggestions were developed over many years of counseling the elderly, helping those who need long-term health care and suffer from dementia.
Resources are required. Ensure resources are readily available for aging parents and children and reach out to close friends, family, and professionals when you feel overwhelmed.
Establish an emergency plan. Have medical, prescription, legal (including will and trust), POLST, or DNR/AND (do not resuscitate/allow natural death) related matters in place and ready for immediate access. Coach family members on what to expect in an emergency and keep them informed and prepared.
Delegate tasks and ask for help because one person can't possibly do everything on their own. This is a special time when stress can peak.
Handle Stress Before Stress Handles You
Caregivers must manage multiple responsibilities. Being a family caregiver leads to many issues, including a weakened immune system, stress from job loss, marital instability, various home-life struggles, coping with family concerns, and more.
The stress and anxiety that results from being a caregiver are not good for your physical or emotional health and well-being. The constant state of heightened alert that these caregivers experience can often lead to depression, illness, burnout, and unexpected emotions like resentment.
The emotional and physical struggles associated with prioritizing care for the older adult and the rest of your family should not be overlooked.
"Resentment doesn't occur right at the beginning of the caregiving journey but is rather built up over time. This provides a significant dilemma among the 'Sandwich Generation' as they often feel they must handle care on their own without professional help or help from friends and family. A common example is the tendency of family members to resent other family members who receive overt praise for doing what they perceive in their eyes as the bare minimum," Anastasia explained.
Proper coping mechanisms can be lifesaving.
Self-care, even just 10 minutes a day, is the single most important thing you can do. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will survive this journey," Anastasia said.
Planning Helps Avoid the Crisis
These are good recommendations if you are in a crisis, but is there a way to avoid it to start with? Most experts say everyone needs a long-term care plan to address the costs and burdens of aging and declining health.
Yet even a simple conversation about aging never happens or becomes a joke. A parent tells their son or daughter not to place them in a nursing home when they get older. The children laugh and say remind them that they will be deciding which nursing home they will go to when the time comes.
A serious conversation never takes place. Most long-term care is not in a nursing home. Today, most care is delivered at home (or in a child's home), in assisted living, or in memory care.
Families discover, typically too late, that health insurance and Medicare will not pay for most of these long-term health care services. Medicaid can pay for long-term health care if the care recipient has little or no income and assets.
Many people are unaware of Long-Term Care Insurance or fail to purchase it, thinking they can do so when they get older. However, they find out they are ineligible due to poor health. LTC Insurance is medically underwritten and typically purchased when a person is in their 50s.
A family discussion should take place before the crisis happens. Planning for future long-term care should happen ideally when you are younger and in good health. Avoiding the problem before the crisis starts will benefit everyone in the family.
If you are already a caregiver, find the appropriate help either from other family members or from professionals. Professional caregivers can either provide respite care or provide half-time or even full-time care if the resources are available.
Professional caregivers can either come into your home, or you can use adult day care centers as a way to provide the family caregiver with relief.
These guides from LTC NEWS can be helpful -
If your parent has a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, use the benefits. Sometimes families think it is better to hold off activating the policy. That usually is not a good strategy and just adds to the stress. Accessing quality care will benefit your older parent if they get it right away.
If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy.
Even if they do not have an LTC Insurance policy, this service will help you design an appropriate care plan as you access quality care options.
Aging is a reality, and we will face declining health, mobility problems, and even dementia as we get older. Thinking about these problems before they become problems will keep you in control and reduce the pressures otherwise placed on those you love.
About the Author
Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.
Contributor since December 11th, 2017
Longevity has consequences. Long-Term Care Insurance is a valuable tool to help you address the costs and burdens of aging. Being prepared keeps you in control, protects assets, gives you access to your choice of quality care, and gives loved one’s time to be family instead of caregivers.
You might think you have plenty of time to think about these issues. You don't plan for retirement after you retire - you don't plan for long-term health care as you need it.
You probably love your family and don't want to place this responsibility on them. Consider Long-Term Care Insurance in your 40s or 50s when you have the most affordable options.
Seek Professional Planning Help
Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right coverage at the right price.
Long-term care is a very specialized area, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist who represents the top companies as premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Leading specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance.
A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.
Planning Tools and Resources Available on LTC NEWS
Planning for the future is never easy, but long-term health care planning can be very complicated and comes with many emotions. Getting the right tools and resources will make the process much easier.
One of the goals is to reduce the stress and anxiety usually placed on your family at the time of crisis. LTC NEWS can be beneficial in providing you with important information for you to consider.
LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:
The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator will show you the current and future cost of long-term health care services where you live. Plus, each state has vital state-specific information you should know - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News
The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide is an outstanding read to help you get a good overview of the topic area.
Compare the major insurance companies that offer Long-Term Care Insurance products here - Top Insurers for Long-Term Care Insurance | LTC News.
A detailed tax guide that includes available tax incentives can be found by reviewing the Long-Term Care Tax Benefits Guide.
Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.
Benefits of Reverse Mortgages
Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well.
Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement.
Learn more by asking questions to an expert. LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages.
- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.
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You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.
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Get Help in Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim
Many insurance companies have issued Long-Term Care Insurance policies over the years. Filing a claim can sometimes be complicated unless you know what to do or get expert help and assistance.
Don't allow the claim process to stop you from using the benefits available in an LTC policy. Quality care obtained early will help provide a better quality of life and reduce the risk of a deep decline and facility care.
If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation.
Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.