You’ve no doubt heard of the Baby Boomers – in fact, you might have even raised one. You’ve probably also heard of Generation X, aptly named because of that generation’s “refusal to be defined” – although to be fair, these days Generation X is probably less about embracing alternative rock bands and more about middle-aged spread.
Next came the Millennials, then the Post-Millennials and now there are conflicting names for the latest generations – sometimes they’re called Gen Alpha, sometimes Generation Z, sometimes both. We probably need to wait for them to grow up before we really know what name suits them best!
In the middle of it all though, there is a widely accepted new generation. Rather, it’s a generation with a new set of challenges. It’s not even strictly based on a specific age – if you or a loved one has a parent who is older than 65 AND are raising children under the age of 18 – they are smack bang in the middle of the Sandwich Generation.
If you’re thinking, “That can’t be too bad, I don’t mind a nice sandwich,” you’re probably not in the thick of it. The sandwich, that is.
The Sandwich Generation is defined by Investopedia as “…middle-aged individuals who are pulled between supporting both ageing parents and growing children… they are effectively ‘sandwiched’ between taking care for their ageing parents – who may be ill, unable to perform activities of daily living or in need of financial support – and children, who require financial, physical and emotional support.”
Many in the Sandwich Generation are also at the pinnacle of their professional careers, filled with responsibilities and commitments at work. The stress builds when they feel torn between the time spent at work, with their own families and helping their ageing parents.
The good news is, Home Instead can offer the help and support your family needs to release the pressure on your Sandwich Generation members – whether it’s you in the sandwich, or perhaps it’s your daughters or sons. It’s completely ok to ask for extra help, especially if it means relieving the pressure on those family members who feel as if they are being pulled in all directions.
Home Instead recently spoke to Brisbane woman Megan Pitcher, a highly organised but often tired and harried member of the Sandwich Generation. Megan helps care for her parents – now in their 90s – while also raising four teenagers and working fulltime as a vet.
Megan’s perspective offers a glimpse into the challenges of being in the Sandwich Generation.
“I’m very busy all of the time, there is never a spare moment. Running the house with the children as well as helping out with my parents fills in a lot of the spare time that I would have normally,” Megan says.
“What I’ve noticed with ageing is that there is a sudden and rapid decline in my parents’ health. Every year is different, and there may be very different things suddenly occurring.
“If they have a medical emergency or something like that, it affects their ability to look after themselves. That’s a big worry, and it can happen very suddenly,” she says.
“It’s then up to me to make sure they have everything they need at home, because that’s where they want to be.”
There have been times late at night, when Megan finds herself thinking about how to fit all of her family responsibilities into the next day, as well as work in her job as a busy vet.
“Yes, you do worry about how can I continue to help and support my parents, as well as do what I need to do for my family,” she says.
Megan and her parents are now looking at home care options as a priority, because Megan’s parents have no intention of moving.
“Until recently, I didn’t even know that Home Instead was an option for us, but I think it will be a great way to relieve some pressure. I want to spread the word about in-home care, because women like me need to know about these businesses that are there to support us.
“As a generation of women that are really juggling our careers, our children and now our parents, we need to know that there is support out there.”
If you or someone you know are in the Sandwich Generation, here are our top tips to help you not only survive, but thrive in these challenging years:
- Requesting flexibility in work schedules from your employer is crucial; if you can’t work from home one or two days per week, consider shorter working days or even job sharing to give you more time for your family commitments.
- An alternative work schedule is the ‘compressed work week’ – consider working 40 hours over four days so you can take one day per week off for yourself and your family, or it may even be possible to cut your daily hours from eight hours a day to six.
- Delegate your own family’s chores during the week and free up time to enjoy each other’s company, especially on weekends; this could mean hiring your own cleaner or outsourcing home maintenance tasks so you can enjoy a break together.
- No matter how busy you get, you must take care of you; this means prioritising your own exercise, nutrition and self-care; do what makes you feel good, and don’t let it fall by the wayside because you are busy.
- Book that holiday and really take the time to recharge; these are busy years and you must take regular rest breaks by getting away from it all – even a day at the beach will work wonders!
- Talk it out with family and friends; make sure you let your support networks know if you are struggling, and be prepared to ask for and receive help when you need it.
- Keep some perspective by recognising that this period in your life will not last forever, so do what you can with what you’ve got and enjoy it while you can; reduce your stress levels by not stressing!
- Look into all of the options for personalised, relationship-based and dependable in-home care for your ageing parents, to reduce the caring duties required of you; this means you can still spend enjoyable social time with your parents instead of only seeing them when you are carrying out caring duties.
The most important thing to realise is that there is care available to help you and your family, as much or as little as you need. Home Instead’s relationship-based care model means your loved ones can be cared for by people they know, who truly care for their wellbeing with CAREGives you can all trust. They might even make you a sandwich!