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.
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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-ten 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.
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