The Sandwich Generation: Tips for Taking Care of Elderly Parents

Sandwich generation, duality in parenting

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 25% of all Americans ages 40-60 are caught in the middle of caring for two generations, raising both a child and caring for elderly parents or family members.

Known as the "sandwich generation," they are typically in their mid- to late-forties, both male and female, married, employed, and juggling the complex roles of parent, spouse, and caregiver. They feel an enormous amount of stress and are often pushed to the limit by caring for family members, meeting work commitments, supporting friendships, and maintaining their own personal health and well-being.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel over-scheduled and under-resourced. Often, the stress of trying to care for everyone can lead to burnout and depression which impact our sense of personal confidence and also affect our ability to enjoy our own families.

While caring for both children and elders, those in the sandwich generation frequently confront dilemmas like:

  • Splitting time between our children/ family and our elderly parents or loved one
  • Balancing time for our partners and for ourselves
  • Dealing with feelings of guilt for not having enough time to accomplish it all

It may be overwhelming at times, but here are some proven strategies to ease the strain for those of us "sandwiched" between the competing demands of children, elderly parents, and work:

Communicate the difficulties of being a sandwich generation caregiver

  • Tell your spouse or partner and children about the responsibilities you are facing and how their understanding and support is key to success.
  • Encourage children and elders to communicate with one another, allowing everyone to share their views and how they can contribute to a harmonious family.
  • Talk with your family when plans need to be adjusted to fit changing situations.

Share caregiving responsibilities with your family

  • Hold family meetings to discuss and set mutual expectations about the many different caregiving tasks that need to be accomplished each day or week.
  • Draw up a roster allocating duties for each family member.
  • Involve grandparents in the daily activities at home, letting them know they are part of your world.

Relieve the stress of caregiving

  • Reduce scheduled commitments and lighten up on enrichment-filled days when possible.
  • Find 30 minutes of personal time to exercise, read, meditate, listen to music, or call a friend.

Reassure the ones you love that you care

  • Let your family know that taking care of your elders will not affect the love you will keep giving to them. Welcome your parents into the household and let them know they are not a burden and how much they are appreciated.
  • Write little notes of love, appreciation, and encouragement to children, elders and spouse/partner.

Ask for assistance

  • Make a point of picking up the telephone and spending time calling resources such as an area agency on caring for the elderly, a hospital social worker, physician or church.
  • Find a friend to walk and talk with you.

In coping with caring across generations, we model and teach our children about love, caring for parents, friendships, kindness and inclusion. There is no one right way to be a good parent or adult caregiver, so allow for mistakes, remembering the joy that comes in caring for those we love.

More on This Topic

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Sandwich generation, duality in parenting