Musings

The Sandwich Generation: caught between caring for their children and supporting ageing parents

by Lindsey Nathan on 10 April 2018 16:19pm : 618

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We’re speaking to more and more mums, who typically describe themselves as frazzled trying to meet the ever-increasing pressures on their time; splitting themselves between caring for their children and their ageing parents, whilst trying to hold down a job.

If you can relate to this then you’re not alone, as according to a Carers UK report around 2.4 million Brits are now part of the “sandwich generation”. In general, this group comprises largely middle-aged adults who have a living parent over 65 and are still raising kids under the age of 18.  This growing contingent find themselves sandwiched between young children and ageing parents as they juggle multiple demands.

Thinly spread

Sticking with the sandwich analogy here, many in this club find themselves too thinly spread.

Delaying starting a family, coupled with people living longer, means more of us are caught between these twin responsibilities.

Changing times

The term “sandwich generation” was first coined back in 1981, by American social worker Dorothy Miller, to describe women in their 30s to 40s who were looking after young and old relatives simultaneously.

Much has changed since then, driven by two main factors: women delaying child-bearing and longer average lifespans.

Between 1995 and 2015, the number of UK mothers who gave birth to their first child aged 35 or over was greater than those aged under 25. This means that more people are now raising children in their fifties, at a time when their own parents may begin to need more support.

Meanwhile, improvements in medical science and geriatric care are ensuring that people are living longer. It follows then that adult children often carry the responsibility of caring for their parents decades longer than their own parents or grandparents did for theirs.

If ageing trends are anything to go by, this scenario will become more common, meaning that a greater number of us will be faced with double-duty caregiving.

More struggle than juggle

“There’s always something weighing on my mind, as I am pulled in too many different directions.”

We hear this time and time again from people trying to meet the needs of their families and realising that they need a support network.

In a Which? survey of 1,449 people aged 40-60 carried out in September 2017, more than a third (36%) said they worry about looking after or arranging care for elderly relatives.

Another study by the Care Quality Commission concluded that care decisions for parents was as stressful event as divorce, death and moving house.

You don’t have to do it all

Many members of the sandwich generation say they feel guilty that they can never give enough of themselves to the people who need them.  This is where Close to Hand can really make a difference to lighten the load – the online platform is designed so that you can establish a local support network for an ageing relative, friend or neighbour.

Don’t wait until crisis point to look for a helping hand as the idea is that a Home Helper can be there before advanced care is needed and to extend the length of time that an older person can remain independent in their own home. Often it’s a friendly face and support with small every-day tasks that make all the difference to somebody’s day and a Home Helper can be there when you can’t.

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