Are you a member of the Sandwich Generation? It is estimated that 24 million Americans are Sandwich Generation caregivers: individuals who have a parent aged 65 or older who are also caring for at least one dependent child. In fact, 33% of the Baby Boomers and 42% of Gen Xers fit this category. That means a lot of stressed, overscheduled, and often overwhelmed individuals. I imagine that you know at least one or two individuals who fit into this category. You might even be one of these people.
How Can You Help?
Sometimes just a kind word, especially inquiring about the sandwich generation individual personally, will make a big difference. Have you ever noticed that the kids or the aged parent is usually the one getting all the attention, not the caregiver? We all need those words of encouragement, pats on the back, recognition. A quick phone call, email, text, or even forwarding a joke, might be all that is needed to bring a smile and provide a moment of distraction.
If you are able, you might want to offer to assist in some way: provide car pooling assistance with the kids, visit the aged parent and offer some respite to the sandwich generation caregiver, run an errand or pick up groceries when you are doing your own shopping, or something which the caregiver might suggest and is within your time frame and willingness to do.
Create a Caregiving Community
I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Following her first surgery, her sister provided a link to a website for friends and family to sign up to assist with driving to medical appointments, walking/visiting, etc. This is something you might want to consider for your personal situation. I’m sure there are other sites available, but check: www.lotsahelpinghands.com
This is a great tool for everyone. You sign up on the calendar for the activities you want to provide. The master calendar is then available for all approved participants to view, avoiding duplications. The master scheduler approves participants and creates the original calendar/activity template.
Volunteering in Your Community
If you don’t have someone who personally needs your assistance at the moment, consider volunteering in your community. Once again, the lotsahelpinghands website has an open community section, where you enter your location to see what needs might needs to be filled. AARP also has a link to local volunteer opportunities of all kinds. Maybe your religious community also has needs in helping those who are ill or alone or restricted in their ability to get out and about.
Long Term Challenge for the Sandwich Generation
If you aren’t currently experiencing the sandwich generation challenges, you might become one of them in the not too distant future. The fastest growing portion of our population is the over 85 group. Take a moment now and consider how you might deal with caring for both your immediate family and an aging loved one who also requires your time and attention. Talk to your friends who have experienced this. They will probably have some really great suggestions with how to cope.