More Americans Than Ever Are Part of the “Sandwich Generation”

What is the sandwich generation?

As Baby Boomers get older and young adults struggle for financial independence, middle-aged Americans are taking on more and more financial burdens. Almost half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent 65 or older and children. About 15% of middle-aged adults are financially supporting a both a parent and a child.

Because of these dual responsibilities, this generation has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation.” This is because they are in the middle—caring for both their children and their parents. These people are often responsible for helping their loved ones with day-to-day tasks, including medical services and supervision. They don’t just aid physically, either. They help loved ones with financial and emotional difficulties, too.


Who is the sandwich generation?

Seventy-one percent of the sandwich generation falls into the 40-59 age range, and 10 percent are 60 or older. Of married adults, 36% are in 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. Forty-one percent of people who do not support an aging parent said they live comfortably. On the other hand, only 28% of those who financially support a parent said they 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 things. One of the biggest is that young adults experienced a bigger drop in weekly earnings than any other age group.

What problems do they face?

In addition to financial support, members of the sandwich generation may find themselves providing emotional support. According to Pew Research, 68% of people with a parent 65 or older say their parents sometimes rely on them for emotional support.

Of parents with grown children, 75% say their children rely on them for emotional support sometimes.

Medical developments and improvements in geriatric care mean that many people are living longer. Because of this, adults are shouldering caretaking responsibilities longer than previous generations. The emotional and financial strain of providing care for family members can cause serious conditions like burnout, depression and anxiety.

Resources

These situations affect every person differently. 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. The Family Caregiving Alliance also offers resources for giving care to loved ones.

Participants of one caregiving study also reported in-person resources that help. Meeting with caseworkers to can connect you to a local resources more easily. Additionally, look for medication reviews. Finally, seek out self-care workshops to learn coping strategies. All of these things can help alleviate the stress of caring for an aging parent.

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