Adult Children, Aging Parents, and the Sandwich Generation: What You Need to Know

Many middle-aged women and men are finding themselves in a situation in which they are dealing with older parents who need their assistance and their own adult children who need their help. Regarding their aging parents, their mothers and fathers may need assistance with activities of daily living. Their adult children may need places to live and direct financial assistance. This phenomenon has created what many people are now calling the Sandwich Generation.

What Is the Sandwich Generation?

The Sandwich Generation has a very direct, easy-to-understand definition:

A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, is responsible for raising their children and caring for their aging parents.

Basic Stats About the Sandwich Generation

  • 44 percent of men and women aged 45-55 have at least one parent still living and at least one child under the age of 21
  • 66 percent of senior caregivers are women
  • 15 percent of people of middle age are financially supporting their parents and their children
  • 84 percent of caregivers have responded that they are happy or very happy in their role as a caregiver
  • 21 percent of Hispanics, mostly women, are caregivers for both their parents and children

The Pew Research Center sums up this data. With an aging population and a generation of young adults struggling to achieve financial independence, the burdens and responsibilities of middle-aged Americans are increasing. Nearly half (47 percent) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent aged 65 or older. They are either raising a young child or financially supporting an adult child (age 18 or older). Approximately one-in-seven middle-aged adults, or about 15 percent, provide financial support to an aging parent and a child.

Financial Impact of Being in the Sandwich Generation

Participants were asked to describe their household’s financial situation in a recent research study. Among those who provide financial support to an aging parent and support a child of any age, 28 percent indicate they live comfortably. 30 percent say they have enough resources to meet their basic expenses with a little left over for extras. Meanwhile, 30 percent state they can meet their basic expenses. Moreover, 11 indicate that they do not have enough to meet their basic expenses.

By contrast, 41 adults sandwiched between children and aging parents but not providing financial support to an aging parent maintain that they live comfortably.

Five Key Tips for Sandwich Generation Caregivers

To address the unique challenges of being a Sandwich Generation caregiver, there are five key tips to bear in mind and practice:

  • Protect your own identity
  • Reprioritize
  • Get organized
  • Accept help
  • Engage in your own self-care

Ask for Assistance

The tasks and responsibilities associated with being a caregiver for an adult child and an aging parent can sometimes feel overwhelming. The thing is that a woman or man in Sandwich Generation need not do it all alone.

You might want to consider reaching out to your siblings for assistance in caring for your aging parents. Different types of support groups are developing for people in the Sandwich Generation in cities across the United States.

A moment ago, we mentioned the need for self-care for a Sandwich Generation member providing care and assistance for aging parents and adult children. Some services and centers provide respite support to assist a Sandwich Generation caregiver. These services and centers can assist your aging parent, allowing you to take some much-needed time off for yourself.

Hire Help

Of course, most women and men in the Sandwich Generation assisting both a parent and children may find their financial resources stretched. Understanding that if there is any financial breathing room in your life, hiring help can assist a member of the Sandwich Generation who is at least stretched to overwhelmed.

You do not necessarily need to hire a caregiver to relieve some pressure. For example, you could hire a person to clean your home regularly. While not professional caregiving assistance for your aging mother or father, hiring a professional of this nature takes off some of the very real pressure experienced by a Sandwich Generation member at work, addressing the needs of both his or her parent and his or her own adult child. Hired help can free up time and render life more enjoyable for the entire family.