Caught In the Sandwich Generation? Share your stories!

by Pamela on December 9, 2013

If You’re In The Sandwich Generation, You Are Not Alone

Are you part of the growing segment of the population who cares for both your children and your elderly parents? I am. Many of my friends are as well. If you are, you’re in a growing group called the Sandwich Generation.

As the Baby Boom Generation ages, the number of elderly that will need care is sure to increase. You can’t watch the nightly news without hearing a story about the sandwich generation. Statistics show that 1 in 8 Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 are raising their own children while also caring for elderly parents.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m from Generation X and I love it. I don’t even like sandwiches. Well, okay, maybe an occasional PB&J, but otherwise, not a fan. I’m even less of a fan now that I find myself smack in the middle of something that I never saw coming. One day, I was happily raising my little boy, coaching for StomperNet, and the next day, my father was in the hospital after a fall and will never be the same again. BOOM! Life changed for my whole family.

I left my job. I took charge of my Dad’s medicines and became his advocate. I interfaced with the doctors, argued with hospital social workers, met with the visiting nurses and home healthcare aids, and got pulled into appointments with their financial planner and estate planning attorney. My brother, sister and I were listening to our parents declare their wishes for a DNR (do not resuscitate), and choosing who would have durable power of attorney should one of them become incapacitated. Whoa! Too much for me wrap my mind around. I don’t want to believe that my parents will ever be ‘incapacitated.’

I was feeling overwhelmed and started talking to my friends and acquaintances about it. I was surprised to hear how many of them are going through the same thing. The more we talked, the more we realized that this is a shared experience and that we can be of help to each other. It’s another phase of life that most of us don’t think about until it hits us right between the eyes.

What helps us? Talking about it. It’s therapeutic. Each of us has become an expert at something that we never knew we needed to know! We teach each other- whether it’s wills, trusts, health care proxies, look-back periods, the ins and outs of Medicare, etc. We’ve gotten quite an education.

We share a bond. It’s like our own little club. Sometimes it’s a burden and sometimes a privilege. We find things to laugh about in order to keep our sanity.

And sometimes we cry…

We know that caring for two generations is not some new phenomenon. When our grandparents were first married, many of them took care of their parents and children at the same time and they had far fewer resources than we have. When my parents first got married, my dad’s family lived downstairs, and his brother’s family lived upstairs in a three family house. Life expectancy was much lower, and life was less frantic- not easier by any means, but less chaotic nonetheless.

Everyone in the Sandwich Generation has a unique experience with common threads. As I read other blogs on this topic, I get a lot of different perspectives and it helps me to manage my new role on my terms.

What’s your story?

Please share it by writing a comment on your experience in the Sandwich Generation and how you manage it. Your story will help others.

Addendum: It has been 5 years since my father had the fall that started his decline. We were told that he would never walk again, but he proved everyone wrong and was able to walk around the house or in and out of the car for a few years and our lives went back to normal. Then, a year ago, he had another fall and he was back to using the walker. In the last few months, he has further declined and cannot be left alone. Thankfully, our family continues to work together.

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Richard Thompson December 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I am not yet in your situation, but it’ll only be a few years until I am. My parents health definitely isn’t what it used to be, and it’s something that nothing in life really prepares you for. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be present during the declarations for DNR, and just the unknown territory of preparing for someone’s eventual passing. All in addition to worrying about your own health and well-being, and your children’s. You have the right idea, many out there are also dealing with these exact same issues, and forming a community to bring each other up and support each other is brilliant. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!


Pamela January 3, 2014 at 11:20 am

Hi Richard-
My best advice is, when the time comes, you should reach out to your circle of friends for support. I’m in my late 40’s and almost all of my friends are going through the same thing and they are a wealth of information. It’s important to compare notes on the different resources that are available. I’m convinced that no one person can absorb all there is to know about elder care!
People are living longer and modern medicine allows us to control conditions that used to kill us, which is a good thing, but it does present a whole new set of challenges, doesn’t it?
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