The Sandwich Generation of Caregivers
Some are referring to individuals currently in their forties and fifties as the “sandwich generation”, because they are sandwiched between two generations who may be simultaneously in need of their support.
Members of the sandwich generation will often host their children and parents in their home at the same time. In the 21st century, youth are staying at the family home later into early adulthood than in the past. In the United Kingdom, record levels of young adults continued to live with their parents in 2013. In Canada, however, numbers have been stable for the last five reported years, but we did see a dramatic rise between the 1980s and 2006. As of 2011, approximately 42% of young adult Canadians, aged 20 to 29, lived with their parents.
With increasing rates of cognitive diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and early-onset dementia, greater numbers of seniors are becoming dependent on caregiving support as they age. In the United States alone, there are 60 million family caregivers providing support for either spouses, parents, or both.
While the sandwich generation may be subject to extreme pressures related to providing care for aging parents while also supporting their own children, health care workers are not immune to the stresses of caregiving. A recent psychology study by Boston University Medical School suggested that individuals who are current or former health care professionals experience greater levels of emotional exhaustion, guilt and stress as a result of caregiving for their parents.
Studies have shown, however, that there can be positive aspects to the sandwiching of one generation between two in need of support. Intergenerational relationships between grandparents and grandchildren can be beneficial both to the social development of the younger generation, and also to providing the older generation with a greater sense of purpose as they age.
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