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The Sandwich Generation

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With the struggles of today’s economy and the life expectancy of the population increasing, there are huge demands surfacing for caregivers of the elderly. A popular term for senior caregiving is known as the “Sandwich Generation," which means a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting and caring for their own children and family.

Currently, the typical American Sandwich Generation caregiver is in her mid-forties, married, employed and cares for her family and elderly parent, usually her mother. There are also men that find themselves in this role at times. The demanding role of being a caregiver spreads across all racial, gender, age and ethnic boundaries.

Since the adoption of the National Family Caregiver Support Program in 2000, there have been many news articles and points of interests written about the family caregiver and their many different roles within the family and the community. It has been estimated that American families provide 80 to 90 percent of all in home long term care services for their aging family members, disabled adult children and other loved ones. Some of these services may include:
-Assistance with activities of daily living
-Medical services coordination
-Medical supervision
-Administration of medications and assistance with financial, legal, spiritual and emotional concerns

These services are priceless and the family caregivers that provide them often go unrecognized and are over utilized which can lead to tremendous stress for the family caregiver. On the other hand, if these same services were provided by our national health care system, it would cost approximately 250 billion dollars per year.

Some common stressors that affect both urban and rural sandwich generation caregivers include:
1. How do I split my time between my children, family and my elder loved one?
2. How much of my time is too much time in each caregiving role?
3. How do I find time for my marriage?
4. How do I find time for myself?
5. How do I keep peace between my children and my elder loved one?
6. How do I find the resources that I need for myself and my loved ones?
7. How do I battle my feelings of isolation?
8. How do I handle all my guilt feelings and not having enough time to accomplish all that I “should” be doing?

Some caregiver tips that may help sandwich generation caregivers deal with some of these stressors include:

Hold a family meeting to discuss the many different caregiving tasks that need to be accomplished each day or week. Set up a task list for all family members to complete each day/week. Set up mutual expectations of how the many tasks of caregiving will be achieved. It is so important to have all your family's support. It really makes life and this challenge much easier for the entire family to handle it and feel supported.

Communication- It important to encourage children and elders to communicate with each other. It is helpful for all family members to have a chance to talk about their thoughts and feelings .For example, how would you feel about the possibility of someday being part of the Sandwich Generation and how would you handle it? Try to put yourself in the situation of the elders. The biggest fear of the aging is losing their independence.

Ask For Help- Do not be afraid to ask for help from community and government resources, such as churches, synagogues, and non-profit resource agencies. Make it a point to locate information; the internet can be a very useful tool for this. It is important to ask for help to alleviate the entire care burden.

Take Time and Care For Yourself – do what you need to do to stay healthy. This includes having some fun and living life to the fullest! Do not put your life on hold. You want to keep going!

Do not neglect your marriage. Make time for each other. Protect your privacy and time alone as a couple and as individuals.

Be practical. You can only do what you can do. Try not to overload yourself emotionally, physically or financially. Decide and plan who can devote the necessary time and attention to provide support. To relieve some stress, try and divide the responsibilities. Typically among a relative, friend, spouse, professional caregiver or some combination of the above.

Make a list of specific help needed in the way of tasks to be accomplished. This will help in taking out the overwhelming feelings from caregiving. Try and plan out a weekly schedule so you will know exactly when and how certain tasks are to be carried out.

It is very important to develop a system that works for you and your family. You need to be able to realistically carry out the tasks and handle the large responsibility of caregiving. In some cases, you may want to consider seeking out other forms of support as well, such as nutrition, or preventative health services and caregiver support services. For more information, you may want to contact the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or www.eldercare.gov.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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