No, I’m not talking about people who remember carrying peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school in a lunch box. The Sandwich Generation are the people caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children. The numbers are staggering.

According to Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. In addition, between 7 to 10 million adults are caring for their aging parents from a distance. And census stats show that the population of older Americans aged 65 and up will double by the year 2030 to over 70 million.

There is an incredible amount of stress in caregiving. Most Americans will be informal caregivers at some point during their lives. Informal unpaid caregivers provide 80% of the long-term care in the United States. Caregivers are at a high risk for their own health issues, emotional collapses, abuse of drugs or alcohol or outright exhaustion.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver, especially a Sandwich Generation caregiver, here are some starter tips that you can share which may help:

  • Find out about caregiving resources in your community.  Caregiving services may include transportation, meal delivery, home health care, home modification assistance, and legal or financial counseling. There are adult day-care centers in most communities.
  • Ask for and accept help.  Be prepared with a specific list for others who ask if they can help.  Don’t be afraid to ask family to help out.
  • Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t the perfect caregiver. There are no perfect parents and no perfect caregivers. Just do the best you can with what you have.
  •  Identify what you can and cannot change.
  • Set realistic goals.  Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.
  • Join a support group for caregivers.  In most communities, there are groups that meet around caring for specific needs such as dementia. It can be a great way to make new friends and pick up tips from others facing similar challenges.
  • Make time for yourself.  One way or another, do something at least once a week for yourself. Each day, do your best to eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep.
  • Know your limits.  You must know yourself and your family well enough to know when you need to let someone else be the caregiver.

The above ideas are just a beginning. Your local Area Agency on Aging can give you much more specific guidance. And most of all, ask God to guide you to the right resources you need. Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

QUESTION: What other things have I missed that should be mentioned?  Use the Comment area below.

5 responses to The Sandwich Generation

  1. sharon43Sharon on October 11, 2012 at 8:04 PM Reply

    This is very timely for me, Dennis, as I moved up to take care of my mom three weeks ago. Your comments are excellent. My biggest problem is I’m living here as a guest at this point so I am trying to respect all her expectations about the house, i.e. can’t have too many magazines stack in the family room, etc. That’s one of the ones I didn’t respond well to. My biggest issue at this point is I can’t create any boundaries that she will respect. My brother suggested today that we sit down and allow each other to talk about how it’s going. She has never been open about her feelings before so I don’t have too many expectations about that.

    I had the rare privilege to hear Dan Allender today in a seminar. Near the end a question was asked about how to recognize elder abuse in the church (seminar was directed primarily to pastors.) Among other things, he made the comment that one of the hardest things required of a care giver is that you have to provide the love and support to a parent that you might not have received from them when you were growing up. I’m still pondering that as I never had a strong emotional attachment to either of my parents.

    Since dementia is setting in. which we didn’t know until I moved in with her and was around 24/7, I have to keep reminding myself that this is the best it will ever be. It’s an interesting place to find myself in. Over the last days God has shown me He’s developing perseverance in me. That’s something I’ve always been strong in…but two days ago He said it was perseverance in His strength not my own.

    Fortunately I have family and her friends standing by to let me get out as often as I want. I knew coming into this that I would have to be sure I took good care of myself too. Thanks for the time and thought you put into your posts.

    • Dennis Gingerich on October 12, 2012 at 6:30 AM Reply

      Sharon, I’m praying for grace and perseverance to abound in the relationship with your mom!

  2. Mary Sizemore on October 11, 2012 at 7:02 PM Reply

    Dennis, I am enjoying this series of blogs you have posted. I have personally taken care of my parents while they were terminally ill and have experienced many of the points you have written about about. Professionally, I sell long-term care insurance so each and every day, I speak to caregivers, policyholders and health care agencies regarding these issues. There are many resources available to caregivers, they just don’t know where to turn. My best advice is to have a plan in place in case your loved one becomes disabled. Know what their wishes are before the time comes. Thank you for discussing these important issues, I have found your articles to be not only accurate but compassionate as well.

  3. Stacey Case Payne on October 11, 2012 at 8:53 AM Reply

    This is so very true and as caregivers we need to realize if we are not caring properly for ourselves it is impossible to care properly for our loved ones.

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