What is the sandwich generation?
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you fall into sandwich generation. The sandwich generation describes a generation of people, typically in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, who are sandwiched between two generations. They care for and support their own children and their aging parents – financially, emotionally, physically, or all three.
There are a couple of trends that have led to this phenomenon. On one hand, people are waiting longer to have children, and those children are being cared for even as adults. Think kids moving back home post-college, and adults still living with their parents or getting financial support from them (Sound familiar?). On the other hand, life expectancy has increased and people are living longer. And with smaller family sizes, there are fewer people to share the responsibility of caring for seniors as they age. As a result, there are many people, both men and women, who are the primary caregivers for both their children and their parents.
According to Statistics Canada, the sandwich generation includes over 2 million Canadians. They are usually juggling full-time jobs in addition to supporting three generations at once: their kids, their parents, and themselves.
Balancing a job, supporting kids, and caring for elderly parents can be consuming and take a pretty big toll physically, emotionally, and financially. While it’s not all negative, and many senior caregivers find it rewarding to give back and find that is strengthens their relationship, there are many struggles and obstacles that those in the sandwich generation face:
• Mental and emotional fatigue
• Financial burden
• Burnout and exhaustion
• Less time for social activities
• Poor sleep habits
• Stress and frustration
• Less personal time
• Mental health problems (depression and anxiety)
• Less career development
• Difficulty managing their time
• Feelings of isolation and guilt
Tips for the sandwich generation
Yes, it’s difficult. But no, it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to make life easier for those in the sandwich generation:
• Assess your financial resources – re-budget to figure out how you’ll cover the costs and plan ahead for your personal goals, so you don’t get left behind.
• Take advantage of the applicable tax benefits claiming your parent as a dependent and applying for a family caregiver tax credit might be beneficial for you.
• Communicate – get your situation, including financial, out in the open, so the whole family knows where you stand.
• Spread the workload – get your kids to pitch in with household chores and have siblings and other relatives help take care of your parents.
• Consider having your parent move in with you.
• Accept help from others – you don’t have to do everything yourself. When people offer to help, let them!
• Set financial boundaries – determine how much you are willing to spend on each dependent a month, a don’t go above that amount,
• Get professional caregiving assistance – use BookJane to help you find a qualified senior or child care provider for an extra hand when you need it.
• Sleep when you can.
• Look on the bright side – it’s great that you get to spend so much time with loved ones, so try to enjoy it, find humour, and laugh as much as possible.
• Don’t try to control everything – let your children and parents be as independent as they can be.
• Take care of yourself – if you are suffering from medical issues, like anxiety and insomnia, make sure you get proper health care too.
• Help your kids get financially independent as soon as possible – teach financial literacy early on, and keep them informed with your family planning.
• Don’t forget to eat, sleep, and exercise.
• Consider counseling – or online support groups to cope with the stress of caregiving.
• Be kind to yourself – you need to take care of yourself in order to better take care of others. Give yourself a break, go to a yoga class, have a spa day class or an evening out with friends to recharge your batteries.
• Talk to your employer about benefits – many companies offer flexible working hours, telecommuting, and employee assistance programs.
• Get creative with senior care financing – have an estate sale or use your parents’ investments.