The National Careline Blog

Are you part of the ‘Sandwich Generation?’

17 June 2020

The sandwich generation is a term which refers to adults, often in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are caught between caring for ageing parents and bringing up their own dependent children.

According to a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of people in this trap is rising rapidly. The report brings the facts to the fore that more than a million people are stretched to the limit supporting both disabled and sick older relatives whilst caring for their own families with more than one in four reporting symptoms of mental ill-health.

In some cultures, it is accepted practice for children to stay with parents in India and Korea where they live as part of a large family. The older parents gain by receiving care and support and the children, as they become parents themselves, gain childcare for their kids. This system works in these countries mainly due to poverty and a large extended family system.

The sandwich generation have difficult choices to make, because being a carer and a parent affects so many aspects of a person’s life. It often means having to step back from a career, losing the chance of career advancement, which in turn, has the knock-on effect of not earning enough to fund their own pension properly.

Younger family members do not see what a huge sacrifice they are making. They should consider how great a risk this is to their financial future when they leave work to care for an elderly parent. The situation affects both men and women but, unfortunately, it is usually women who provide the caring and homecare and the men who bring in the money so men’s future finances are less exposed to risk.

Many marriages crack under the strain and, with the numbers set to rise, many more are going to fall into the following definitions of being either; a caregiver, will be a caregiver or someone will be caring for them, between now and whenever they die. As the cycle perpetuates, it leads on to today’s carer having to lead their life in poverty in old age and having to ask another family member to do the same for them.

To cope with their various living needs, the sandwich generation often uses a housing solution suitable for multi-generational households such as those called ‘mother/daughter’ households which are common in the US. These typically have annexes which have been specially adapted to the needs of those less mobile whilst the younger members of the family have access to the rest of the house.

However, there must be at least one advantage of a ‘sandwich generation’ household and this is the benefit the children gain in experience of, and living with, older people. A situation which, with increasing job mobility, is something a great deal of today’s youngsters are missing out on if their grandparents live many miles away.

Children often have an amazing rapport with their grandparents. Old people really gain when living in a house with youngsters as the grandchildren are eager tutors to ensure that their grandparents are kept up to date with the latest technology. It is an essential requirement now for Granny and Grandad to learn to text so that they can keep up with the kids.

Under the guidance of the grandchildren they provide their grandparents with help in this new technology which, in turn, is a wonderful antidote to loneliness as the grandparents then have the knowledge on how to keep up with their own friends.  

This is an important point as loneliness is a scourge affecting so many of our older people now. This week is Loneliness Awareness Week and I think the kids have one over the adults as they are empowering their grandparents to cope with new things, perhaps the adults caring for them should be following their lead and approaching care in the same way.