In 1981, the term “The Sandwich Generation” was created by Dorothy Miller, referring to a part of the Baby Boomer generation who had their lives complicated by multiple responsibilities. Not only was this generation raising children of their own, but they also had the added responsibility of caring for aging parents. Adding to that difficulty was the new mobile generation. No longer were multi-generational families living in one home. Now it was very common for parents to have moved to a warmer climate, making family care even more difficult for the caregiver.
The Sandwich Generation Today
Things have changed since 1981. Traditional families at that time had a husband who worked outside the home and a wife and mother who stayed home to care for the home and the children. With a working husband, the stay-at-home wife and mother had time to help care for his or her elderly parents.
Over the years, there has been a large increase in the number of households that are headed by single woman. This means one woman caring for children and parents while trying to maintain a career. The result is little or no time for socializing and relaxation, with these women stressed out and exhausted.
And in the traditional household that still has a married couple and a working husband, many of the women are out in the workforce today. With increases in the cost of living, some married women do not have the option of staying home, with a second salary necessary to maintain the household. Children too young for school go to daycare. But the problem remains of how to provide care for the elderly.
Adding to the problem of the Sandwich Generation is that today, with all of the advances in health care, the older generation is living longer and healthier. In many, if not most cases, the need for 24-hour care or a skilled nursing home is not necessary. However, not needing all daycare does not mean that many elderly are capable of living totally on their own in their own homes. Concerns about health and safety still depend on the help from adult sons and daughters.
Balancing Roles and Responsibilities
Trying to balance home, work and parents is exhausting. Expecting a son or daughter to work a full time job, take care of children and a home, plus care for an elderly parent results in divided loyalties and stress. For the person trying to shoulder this burden, the result can be mental physical and emotional collapse.
There are options that some families try such as husband and wife working different shifts. And it is not unusual for a wife to totally give up their personal life by quitting her job to stay home and care for an elderly parent. The result is a caregiver who feels guilty because they cannot do everything: job, spouse, parent and child.
Adding to this problem is the fact that the parent may not live nearby. Trying to manage the care of an elderly parent when they live hundreds of miles away just adds to the stress. Assistance is needed.
Home Care Is a Solution
A solution is eldercare, using a home care company that can provide trained aides to care for the elderly person, whether that parent lives in their own home or with one of their children. Once a dialogue opens with a home care company, the caregiver learns there are many options for help.
The benefits of using a home care aide can be huge. No longer does the primary caregiver need to feel that she is neglecting her spouse and children. Knowing that the elderly parent is being properly cared for, the caregiver now has the time to spend with each family member, without feeling neglectful. The result is a happier and healthier family.
Another benefit could be improvement in the caregiver’s job performance. Without the worry, she can work on her career. And previously where only part-time work might have been an option, she can now work full-time providing the family the income it needs.
Having a home care aide also improves the caregiver’s social life as she now will have time to enjoy some recreational time without the feeling that she is not being a good child. She knows that her parent is in good hands and the result is less physical, mental and emotional stress.
The world has changed for the Sandwich Generation since the term was first coined. Family structures have changed. The cost of living has risen. And caregivers are torn in multiple directions. In the end, the caregiver may wonder if she is truly providing the help that the elderly parent really needs.
Making the decision to hire a home care aide is not an easy decision and should not be made lightly but the benefits can be immense. Not only will the parent receive the proper amount and type of care she needs, but the caregiver will now find life, in general, so much easier, as she no longer needs to balance to role of caregiver into her life.