Living in The Sandwich Generation
Americans are aging more rapidly than ever before. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of older adults 65 and older will double by year 2030 to over 70 million. Additionally, the number of older adults suffering from some form of dementia will also increase dramatically in the next 20 years. It’s also important to note that only 8% of older adults currently reside in an institutional setting such as a nursing home or assisted living facility. The majority of older adults in the U.S. either live at home or with a family member, which typically includes adult children who are raising their own families—especially in Asian, Latin and Middle Eastern families. They are called The Sandwich Generation. According to the Pew Research Center, 1 out of 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for an aging parent.
The term Sandwich Generation was officially added to the dictionary in 2006. According to Carol Abaya, a leading expert in this area, caregivers fall into one of the following categories:
- Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
- Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
- Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care.
I’m part of the Traditional Sandwich Generation. In another words, I am sandwiched between my aging mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and my two children who need constant care and attention—homework, sports, school events, extracurricular activities, etc. There are many challenges involved in balancing a normal daily routine while making sure everyone is taken care of. As a caregiver it’s important to take care of yourself so you can take better care of others. Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Quiet Time − Set aside 15-30 minutes each day for “quiet time” − a time to relax and pray/meditate. Close yours eyes, play soothing music and clear your mind. Early morning seems best for this.
- Exercise at least three times per week – Most of us are quite busy and may not have time to make it to the gym. Walking in the neighborhood for 30-45 minutes will do the trick.
Sleep, sleep, sleep − Getting adequate amount of sleep (7-9 hours) will help you deal better with stress and anxiety.
- Time with friends – Having a quick coffee or lunch with friends helps to recharge your battery. Friends are a great source of comfort and support.
- Seek outside help – There are many resources in the Houston community including the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine, UT Center on Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association, Amazing Place, Elder Advisory Group and the Area Agency on Aging.
About the author
Mehrnaz S. Gill has a Master of Science degree in Gerontology from Baylor University and devotes her time both professionally and personally to causes that relate to the elderly and their well-being. She is very interested in intergenerational programs and for the past 25 years has been involved with many charitable organizations. Mehrnaz has received numerous honors for her philanthropic efforts in the Houston community. She is the author of The Yellow Butterfly, a delightful children’s book about a magical butterfly that grants wishes.