Do you help out with your ageing parents and have children (young or grown-up) that you take care of? If you do, you are part of the sandwich generation.
The term sandwich generation has been around since the 1980s and was coined from the fact that often middle-aged adults were caught in the middle or “sandwiched” between caring for both elderly parents and children. Some are even also caring for grandchildren.
In 2013, there were an estimated 1.5 million Australians1 in their 40s and 50s juggling the competing responsibilities of their children, partner, work and retired parents. With 3.9 million people aged over 65 in 20182 (latest figures), the number of those in the sandwich generation are growing, and so too are their responsibilities.
With an ageing population living longer and children struggling to break free from financial dependence due to tertiary education and or crippling house prices, the imposition on the sandwich generation is even higher.
If you’re in or about to join this generation, there’ll be thoughts on the financial, emotional and physical aspects of being the multi-carer. It may feel overwhelming, but here are some proven strategies to ease the strain for those “sandwiched” between the competing demands of children, elderly parents, and potentially work:
Sharing the responsibilities with your family
- Identify the many different caregiving tasks that need to be accomplished daily/weekly and engage with the family via a weekly meeting to discuss and delegate
- If your elderly parent/s are living at your home and are able to, involve them in light tasks as this provides inclusion and a sense of responsibility and helpfulness for them.
- Are there other extended family/relatives? If so, discuss whether they can commit to time or financial support to assist you.
- If your children are still living at home and they’re earning an income, it’s reasonable to ask them to contribute to household bills. Even if they don’t contribute financially, they can contribute via chores such as cooking or laundry for the household.
Get additional support
- Find a local caregiver support group. The ability to get tips from others who understand your situation as they’re in the same boat helps to feel connected and less isolated. The Carers’ Circle Facebook page and/or Facebook group are great places to share
- If finances allow it, pay for that house cleaner or the extra childcare for a few hours to help give back time for you to do other things
- For elderly relatives, explore whether there are local community groups or charities that have volunteers who can spend some time with your relative or take them for an afternoon out with other people. If you can’t find volunteers, there are also companies that offer companion services such as Like Family
- Encourage your elderly parents to join groups like Probus or University of the Third Age that have activities and courses to help people maintain a sense of purpose and decrease social isolation.
- Check whether you or your parents are entitled to any care support from the Government. This can be in the form of services such as Home Care Packages, or financial support for you as a Carer.
Speak to work
- If you are juggling a full-time job in addition to your carer responsibilities, talk to your manager and see if you are able to switch to a more flexible schedule
- Speak to your manager and/or human resources and see whether there are support resources they can provide you as your employer. Some larger companies have agreements with service providers with Employee Assistance Programs.
- Talk with your family. Share with them that the key to your success of being a carer across generations is their support, understanding and flexibility
- If your situation means a parent/s ends up living with you, encourage your spouse, parents and children to communicate with one another, allowing everyone to share their views to ensure there is unity in the household.
(Lastly, but the most important is) self care
- Setting boundaries around your time making it clear when you will and won’t be available is very important.
- Carve or set aside 30-45 minutes of personal time daily to exercise, read, meditate, listen to music, or call a friend
- Reduce scheduled commitments and continue to share and delegate when you can.
- Get outside and breathe – whether that is in your backyard, local park, by the ocean or local walking path.
By taking care of yourself we model and teach our children that we are ensuring we’re in the best shape both physically and mentally to take care of everyone else. Remember the safety announcement provided before a flight: put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.
Some useful links
- Carers’ Circle Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Carerscircle and Carers’ Circle Facebook Group to get tips and connect with others in the same boat.
- Probus – https://probussouthpacific.org/
- University of the Third Age –https://www.u3aonline.org.au/home
Photo credit: Family recording a video clip by Teddy on Rawpixel