Sandwich Generation: The Stories Behind the Numbers

sandwich generation

Eldercare tends to be expressed in big numbers. And for good reason since the big-picture costs are pretty staggering:

The Truth Behind Elder Care Statistics

The numbers indicate an enormous challenge. But the seven-figure statistics can make the people behind them seem theoretical - as if they don't represent real people. But they do.

More than a large societal trend, those 44 million caregivers reflect a much more localized story taking place in organizations - one where real people in the sandwich generation are struggling between the weight of children, parents, and their ability to do their jobs.

What Real Employees in the Sandwich Generation Have to Say

Some commentary from people with elder care responsibilities:

  • "Dad was going to need my help for the foreseeable future, but I couldn't just stop working. And my job and his home are a 90-minute-drive apart. Honestly, I didn't know where to even start."
  • "My mother-in-law doesn't want to move, but her friends are calling us to say she shouldn't be living by herself. Do I have to honor her wishes to live 1500 miles away by herself?"
  • "My father has just been diagnosed with moderate dementia and lives 1-1/2 hours away. I work full-time and am so overwhelmed."
  • "As my mom's condition gets worse, I need time to chase down doctors."
  • "How to handle time out of the office weighs on me. I still have three children and a spouse that get sick from time to time, too."
  • "The stress is going to eventually kill me."

The Real Impacts on Employees

The above accounts, most shared during a Bright Horizons webinar on supporting elderly parents, reflect stories behind the numbers, and show just how lives and work are being impacted - and how many potential deadlines, assignments, and client meetings are at stake. Employer support, then, isn't aiming to target all $25 billion in productivity losses; on any given day, it's aiming to ensure one individual in one job can make one essential deadline.

As Accenture's Julie Wilkes told us about having access to back-up care for her grandmother, "I think my whole workday would be a little bit off if I sat and I was worried about her all day," she said.

"Living a few hours away from her...I can't tell you how meaningful it was."

The message is clear. The big Sandwich Generation numbers matter a lot. But the day-to-day events - whether your people are able to work - determine whether or not your organization gets the job done.
Multi-generational family sitting together on a couch

Putting the Squeeze on Productivity

The Challenges Facing the Sandwich Generation and the Impact on Employers

Written by: Ellen Oliver

January 15, 2020

About the Author

Ellen Oliver at Bright Horizons

As Director of B2B Marketing Programs, Ellen writes about talent management, employee engagement, and work/life balance trends. Ellen brings a wide perspective of human resource topics gained through working with industries from large engineering and construction firms, to government and academic organizations and nonprofits.