Caught in the middle: How does the sandwich generation woman not get squeezed?

Are you in a situation where you are taking care of both your children and your aging relatives? The number women in their 40s and 50s serving double duty, caring for both children and aging relatives, is on the rise. This group has been dubbed the “Sandwich Generation,” works at least 20 hours a week raising children and caring for aging relatives as well as maintaining at least a part-time career. Studies have shown that this causes tremendous amounts of stress and leads to premature aging that can take off as much as 20 years of the caregivers life.

In my recently released book, Caught in the Middle: How Does The Sandwich Generation Women Not Get Squeezed, my co-author Sharon Allen and I strive to help the sandwich generation find balance. Here we provide a synopsis of the information in the book.

The emotional pressures to help loved ones while still working to achieve personal balance just scratches the surface of what is really going on. The Sandwich Generation Woman on average loses $324,044 in lifetime income, a staggering figure when considered on top of potential lost wages with normal child rearing. Issues facing the Sandwich Generation Women are clear: circumstances are complex, personal, professional and financial stakes are high, and this situation can be financially disastrous for the caregiver and the parent/aging loved ones. The key to getting through this with ones head above water is advanced planning, gathering the right support team for your situation and proactively honoring life balance.

Forming a Proactive Plan

When forming a proactive and successful plan you have to look at both sides of the dilemma—the young and the old. Research has shown that when you establish guidelines at home it will help children in a multigenerational situation and alleviate pressure both in the family and in your marriage.  It is hard enough to take care of yourself, let alone children and aging relatives. It’s important to remember that if you need help, ask for it. Create a household chore list, establish a family calendar, make “house rules”, work with a financial advisor to plan for your children’s futures, and share the workload with adult children (if you have any). More times than not, adult children are more than willing to help out around the house and provide what assistance they can for their family.

Aging is Apart of Life

We all hope our parents will age gracefully and live a long, healthy life with a clear mind. But, we need to be prepared should the unexpected happen. Dementia can be subtle, and it’s best to stay on the look out for its earliest signs. Among these are:

  • Confusion about finances
  • Not balancing checkbook
  • Mood or behavior changes
  • Getting lost when driving
  • Memory loss
  • Misplacing items
  • Loss of initiative or enthusiasm about life

If our loved ones start experiencing any of these signs, the pressure is now of the potential caregivers to being planning. The five years prior to being diagnosed with dementia, what we call the “warning track”, are very dangerous years for a senior’s family stability and finances. Major mistakes are common in this time frame when children and the senior’s spouse chalk up lapse to “senior moments”.

Obviously, Dementia is not the only situation in which you would find yourself part of the Sandwich Generation. Caring for an aging loved one is defined by their ability to deal with challenges, not by their age or mental capacity.

Effective Communication

When starting to plan for your loved one’s future, effective communication is key. Most aging loved ones are very independent. Caught in the Middle provides a checklist that will help guide you in planning the very best future for your loved ones as well as yourself. In addition, it is important to get all the finances in order. It’s time to ask the hard questions about their life and yours. Where do they want to live out the end of their days? There are many options, some more expensive than others. Preparing for what could come may give you options that you thought were unavailable or unattainable. It is important to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each option and choose carefully.

Key to a Stress Free Future

The key to a successful and low-stress future is creating the right support team. It is always good to have an abundance of people in your court. Some important allies are an objective and experienced financial advisor, estate or elder care attorney, accountant, and geriatric care manager among others.

Find your Personal Balance

It’s time to start honoring personal balance and at home balance. Balancing the needs of both children and aging relatives can be challenging and stressful—not only in terms of managing time and resources, but also in achieving personal balance. Unexpected events will happen and will force your original plans to change. Effective strategies like setting aside time to take care of yourself and manage energy can assist in reducing stress while handling the responsibilities of caring for multiple generations.

People are living longer and are usually much healthier to later ages. Sharon and I wrote Caught in the Middle because the caregiver dilemma still exists and is growing.

Each stage of managing the needs of multiple generations will have its own intensity, rhythm and challenges. If you are already in a caregiver position just remember you do not have to do this alone. Ask for help—involve your support team, establish effective communication, involve the younger generation, join a support group and manage your energy.

The Kindle edition of Caught in the Middle is available on Amazon for $2.95, auto-delivered wirelessly.  For more information about the book, contact Libby Stafford, director of special client services at