Today, there are approximately 43 million caregivers that have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last twelve months, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Furthermore, 28 percent of these caregivers represent the sandwich generation, which includes middle-aged adults who are raising their own families while also caring for their aging parents or other family members. These responsibilities can include managing careers, coordinating childcare, upholding household duties, and care tasks for aging parents. Although this is common throughout the United States, sandwich-generation caregivers can struggle with managing these responsibilities, both emotionally and financially. In fact, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, roughly one-third of sandwich-generation caregivers report a high level of emotional stress, and a fifth report financial stress and physical strain. While all caregivers experience their share of difficulties and challenges, sandwich-generation caregivers have their own set of unique challenges as they simultaneously navigate the nuances of caring for themselves, their own families, and their aging parents.
Many sandwich-generation caregivers have their own full lives furthering their careers, raising their children, and nurturing other important relationships. On top of it all, these caregivers are often the primary support person for their aging parent or another family member. Balancing all of these tasks while also caring for themselves can present certain emotional, physical, and financial challenges. Here are a few of the most common challenges amongst sandwich generation caregivers:
Emotional Stress. For many adult children, experiencing the role reversal that happens when an adult child begins to care for their aging parent can prompt a lot of different emotions. Oftentimes caregivers experience anticipatory grief as they wait for the passing of their loved ones. It’s also common to feel a loss of independence as most of your time is spent caring for other people, whether that be your children or your parent. Without the time to process emotions, caregivers can also experience empathy and compassion fatigue which often leads to caregiver burnout.
Financial Burden. Raising a family is expensive and the added costs of supporting an aging loved one can cause undue financial stress on a caregiver, especially if your loved one has depleted their financial resources. On average, sandwich generation caregivers spend three hours per day providing unpaid care for their children in addition to their aging family members. These commitments can often cause them to miss out on career opportunities that would require a bigger time commitment, ultimately costing them the opportunity for financial gain. In addition, this loss can become magnified if a loved one needs help paying for medical expenses or additional at-home health care. Over time these costs can produce a heavy financial burden for caregivers and lead to negative health outcomes such as anxiety and depression.
Family conflict. Providing care for an aging parent can involve a lot of different personalities and opinions from involved family members. It’s common to have disagreements about your loved one’s finances, medical decisions, and next steps.
While it’s not easy to navigate all of the emotions that come with caring for a family and an aging loved one, there are ways to work through the challenges and make caregiving feel more manageable. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living offer support for caregivers in many different ways. Whether they need respite care for their loved ones or are looking for support groups designed for family members—we can help. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour of our communities, please contact us.
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