The Sandwich Generation: Who is Caring for You?


Published:

Social worker Dorothy Miller, originally coined the term “sandwich generation” back in 1981, to describe women in their 30s to 40s who were “sandwiched” between young children and aging parents as their primary caregiver. A lot has changed since then. Women are delaying child-bearing and seniors are living longer. Because of these added variables, the “sandwich generation” definition has morphed along the way and tends to target both genders and the predominant age is 40-65 years old.

According to a 2013 Pew research report, “Nearly half (47 percent) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15 percent) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child” (Parker & Patten).  In 2005, the sandwich generation was largely made up of Baby Boomers.

Fast forward to 2014, and the Boomers have started to age out of the sandwich generation and become the recipients of care from the new sandwich generation. Generation X is now the predominant demographic in the sandwich generation. In addition, Pew research reports three in 10 Hispanic adults (31 percent) have a parent age 65 or older and a dependent child. This compares with 24 percent of whites and 21 percent of blacks. Compound this data with the growing number of children/dependent adult children and seniors who require complex care related to increased autism and chronic disease diagnosis, and the stress on the sandwich generation magnifies ten-fold.

Who cares for the sandwich generation? In many cases, no one cares for this group of caregivers, who usually has the added burden of working a full-time job.  Additionally, this group often has to juggle an unexpected hospitalization of their loved one with their career obligations. Many outsiders to this issue may think a hospitalization might give the caregiver some respite, when, in fact, most caregivers have an added stressor when a loved one is hospitalized and their already hectic daily routine is altered.

Self-care is typically neglected by the sandwich generation. Learning to integrate simple self-care tips into your daily routine will help caregivers to stay healthy. The heathy caregiver provides a higher level of physical and emotional care to their loved one and this is a gift that keeps on giving.

Caregiving Tips

1. Be kind to yourself. Often we are kind to others while we push ourselves beyond our own limits. The first step in dealing with caregiver stress, anger or frustration is to care for yourself. Well-meaning friends and relatives often tell you to take care. But no one will actually tell you how to take care of yourself while supporting a loved one or sitting at his or her side at the hospital. One of the first things to learn is to ask for and accept help. It’s important to clearly identify your needs and acknowledge that you can’t do it all alone. This can be hard to do.  Make a list of people you know who would be willing to help. Help doesn’t necessarily mean caregiving, but every task or chore that is removed from your full plate will give you a few more minutes of you time every day!

2. Take spontaneous and unplanned breaks. If your loved one is in the hospital and needs to have a test, give the nurse your cell number and go sit outside for 10 minutes. If caring for someone at home, consider the use of a wireless doorbell system to enable your loved one to call when needed. This allows the caregiver on duty the freedom to be in another room or go outside. A walk to the mailbox can be a mini-vacation. Sun, and even rain, can be good for the soul. Exercise of any kind can help to release some of the frustration that caregivers experience.

3. Pack a caregiver bag of your own. Find an attractive cloth bag for essential personal items when you visit the hospital with your loved one. Keep hand lotion, lip balm, a journal, a novel, or any item that is soothing for you.

4. Be mindful and meditative. Every hospital has a chapel. Most have a chaplain, at least on call. Consider utilizing available resources for prayer or reflection. Pick up a book on mindfulness meditation. Carry a book on mindfulness with you and read a passage or two when you have a few minutes. Use a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings. Being mindful reminds us to have gratitude for even the small mundane things—after all; they can go away in a flash. When caring for your loved one, be mindful of how he or she feels, smells, talks, laughs, etc. Appreciate the beauty of it all. The memories you make in doing so can be conjured up at a moment’s notice . . . forever. Seize the opportunity to be present in the moment. Refuse to let stress or anger rob you of valuable time.

5. Nourish your body with healthy food. It is all too easy to rely on junk food and vending machines. Avoid using alcohol or drugs (including caffeine) to get through the day. These will only complicate things and add to the stress, anger and frustration. Eating healthy food will give you the physical and mental stamina to deal with whatever is thrown your way during the day. Ultimately, it will help you to deal with adversity more effectively.

6. Sleep Whenever You can. Many of us struggle with sleep even without a life crisis. If you have an unexpected 2-hour break in the middle of an afternoon, take a nap and refuse to feel guilty about it. Sleep, like healthy food, helps all of us handle adversity better. In addition to sleep, keep up with your own health needs. Don’t skip annual medical screenings or allow yourself to run out of prescription medicine. If you do not take care of yourself, you can’t do a good job of caring for your loved one.

7. Laugh, laugh, laugh! We all know the power of a good belly laugh! Try to see the humor in life.

8. Avoid hard-and-fast plans. Purchasing tickets for concerts or signing up to take a class and then being unable to attend can add to your frustration. You are often better off using any free time to take a walk, shop, or even nap. Time becomes ever so precious. Learn to use it wisely.

9. Consider counseling. Many counselors specialize in anger, the stress of caregiving, and grief. If you need help in getting through a stressful time in life, you are not weak or unusual. Think about what you need or want. Do you just want to talk to someone? Maybe a therapist or support group is what you need. If you think you might need medications, consult your PCP or a psychiatrist. Many caregivers have trouble sleeping or find themselves battling anxiety. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask your doctor for medications to help with sleep or anxiety problems. If your loved one is hospitalized, and you are caring for him or her far from where you live, ask a nurse or doctor to refer you to the appropriate professional near the hospital. Health care providers and social workers are used to assisting out-of-town visitors with their health care needs. Regardless of your location, if you are having difficulty coping with the anger or frustration of being a patient or caregiver, reach out to a mental health professional. For those caregivers unable to leave the home but in need of support, many online support groups are available. Support groups for caregivers, relating to specific diseases, are constantly being added to the online community. For a list of current online support communities, type “online caregiver support group” into your digital search engine.

Ruth Tarantine serves as the chair of Online Nursing Graduate Programs and nursing faculty at a private university.  With 25 years of nursing experience, she holds a registered nurse diploma from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Carlow University, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, and a doctorate of nursing practice from Chatham University. Connect with Tarantine on: Healthcareagainstallodds.com, Facebook.com and LinkedIn.com Against All Odds is available for on Amazon.com and BN.com.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Enjoy spring open house featuring seven model homes on the tour, as well as kite-flying demonstration by seasoned professionals. Start your tour at the information center, and get ready for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Briar Chapel Information Center
1342 Briar Chapel Parkway
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Newland Communities
Telephone: 888-249-9429
Contact Name: Cherith Andes
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), kids ages 6 & under: free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Harris Lake County Park is home to several species of salamanders. Join us as we learn about these elusive amphibians and see some up close. All ages. Meet in the Educational Garden at the picnic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Durham Stake presents a family-friendly show featuring favorite Dr. Seuss books all together in one story. Join the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, and many others on a journey through...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1050 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Contact Name: Bethany Fager
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is putting on the hilarious, yet sometimes tender, musical production of Seussical on March 15-16 and 22-23. It is a family-friendly show that...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1050 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Durham Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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The Raleigh Boychoir will reach new heights as our choristers and community present Dr. Tim Sharp’s “High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass.” Welcoming area boys to perform in...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Baptist Church
99 N Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Raleigh Boychoir
Telephone: 919-881-9259
Contact Name: Erin O'Hara
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Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. Choose course #121675.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Celtic Woman celebrates Ireland's rich musical and cultural heritage, while continuing its remarkable legacy of introducing some of Ireland's most talented singers and musicians onto the...

Cost: $43 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Shop for gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equipment and more. See the website for shopping hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.