As Baby Boomers age and young adults strive and struggle for financial independence, middle-aged Americans are experiencing significant increase in financial burden. Almost half of adults in their forties and fifties have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or are financially supporting a child over the age of 18. About 15 percent of middle-aged adults is financially supporting a parent and a child.
Because of these dual responsibilities, this generation has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation,” sandwiched between caring for both their children and their parents. People who are sandwiched tend to be responsible for helping their loved ones with day-to-day tasks, including medical services and supervision and aiding in financial and emotional difficulties their loved ones may experience.
Members of the sandwich generation mostly fall in the 40-59 age range (71 percent) and 10 percent are 60 or older. 36 percent of married adults fall into the sandwich generation.
Up to 44 million Americans act as informal caregivers for aging parents and relatives, per a study by the Family Caregiver Alliance. Family caregivers, most of whom are women, provide more than 75 percent of care in the United States. Often, this requires more than 20 hours of care per week, which can put immense strain on the caregivers.
Caregivers who support multiple family members are more likely to feel financial strain. Among the 21 percent of adults between the ages 40 and 59 who were caring for an aging parent, those who were financially supporting their parent were less likely to consider themselves to be living comfortably. 41 percent of people who were not supporting an aging parent said they were living comfortably, where only 28 percent of those who were supporting a parent financially were able to live comfortably.
In this study, Pew Research discovered that the number of middle-aged adults caring for aging parents hasn’t changed much. Rather, more adults aged 40-59 are now financially supporting their grown children. This is due to a number of factors, but most notably that young adults experienced a greater drop in weekly earnings than any other age group from 2007 to 2011.
In addition to financial support, members of the sandwich generation may find themselves providing emotional support. Pew Research found that 68 percent of people with a living parent age 65 or older say that their parents rely on them for emotional support at least sometimes.
75 percent of parents with grown children say that their children (whether they’re financially independent or not) rely on them for emotional support at least sometimes.
Medical developments and improvements in geriatric care mean that many people are living longer, and adults are then shouldering caretaking responsibilities longer than previous generations. The emotional and financial strain caused by providing care for multiple family members can cause burnout, as well as conditions like depression and anxiety.
These situations affect every person differently, and it’s important for members of the sandwich generation to care for themselves as well. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners offers seminars on the care of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the Family Caregiving Alliance features resources for giving care to loved ones.
Participants of one caregiving study also reported that things like meeting with caseworkers to discuss community resources, medication reviews, and self-care workshops to learn coping strategies were helpful in alleviating stress brought on by caring for an aging parent.