The Sandwich Generation

By Family Caregivers' Network Society

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For many family caregivers balancing caregiving and employment is a challenge. But add caring for their own children into the mix and life becomes even more chaotic and can easily lead to caregiver burnout. This specific group of caregivers are referred to as the “Sandwich Generation” – people caught between the demands of caring for their children, grandchildren and their aging parents.

Journalist and speaker Carol Abaya has identified two different types of living arrangements experienced by members of the Sandwich Generation. The Traditional Sandwich are those caregivers sandwiched between caring for aging parents and their own children. The Club Sandwich occurs when three generations are living in the same house. This could be those people sandwiched between their aging parents and their adult children who have moved home with their own children or younger families who have both aging parents and grandparents living with them. Statistics Canada cites that about 30 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 45 to 64 are living in a sandwich situation.

This type of arrangement can be a major juggling act for the primary caregiver, but can also impact the whole family. Between the demands of work and caregiving, there is less time available for the caregiver to spend with their own spouse and their children. Family caregivers can feel drained and pulled in many different directions. And other family members can feel neglected and resentful.

A few ways to help minimize the impact of the Sandwich Generation include:
1. Dividing up the tasks of caregiving among all family members. Have a family meeting. Make a list of what needs to be done on a daily and weekly basis, including appointments, and allocate someone to each task. Even the smallest children can help in some small way – spending time with their grandma or taking grandpa his book and reading glasses.

2. Setting aside specific time to spend with your other significant others – have a date night with your spouse, go to your son’s baseball game or have coffee with a friend. Everyone will benefit from this time and, as a caregiver, you will have time to recharge.

3. Having a regular family meeting (including the person receiving care) to check in with everyone as to how the current arrangement is working for everyone. If anyone has concerns, brainstorm ways these concerns may be resolved.

4. Making use of community resources for support.

The demands of caregiving and the resulting impact on the family can be reduced when everyone chips in and works as a team.

Next month: New to Family Caregiving? What Now?




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