sandwich generation, baby bommers, stress relief, taking care of parents, burnout, resentmentThe Sandwich Generation is a growing population of highly stressed people that care for both children and parents. According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. The first year of Baby Boomers turned 65 in 2011, joining the senior population stress is on the rise. The US Census Bureau notes that the number of older Americans age 65 and older will double by 2030 to over 70 million. The Sandwich Generation stress level will only grow.

Baby boomers have their own unique set of stressors as the Sandwich Generation. Juggling time and squeezing everything into their day just skyrockets stress. The one thing that suffers is their health and self-care.  The Stress in America Survey 2011 revealed caregivers are more likely than those in the general population to state they are doing a poor to fair job at several healthy behaviors, including managing stress and getting enough sleep. The survey also reveals caregivers report being in poorer health than the rest of the nation, with higher rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight issues and depression.

Are you borrowing from your health?

Day in and day out poor self-care draws from your resources. Skipping meals, lack of sleep, working long hours and lack of relaxing activities takes a toll on your health. When stressed, you focus on what immediately needs done. Seeing the big picture doesn’t necessarily happen due to chemical responses in the body. The caregiver places more responsibility in caring for others first. What time might be leftover is spent on meeting your needs, which may not be much. These poor self-care responses affect your future health, according to recent studies.

The Sandwich mindset.

Baby boomers were raised to pitch in and work hard to get the job done. However, it’s important to realize that the demands of today are much different than the 1930’s when your parent was young. Still it’s really tough to let go of deeply engrained beliefs about work ethic. Many Baby Boomers were raised to work hard until the job is done. If not careful, this mindset can lead to overwork and inevitably making not so healthy choices.
Your approach to caring for your parents and children might seem the same at times but it’s not. They are in two different life phases. Children are growing and reaching for independence while aging parents are holding onto their freedom. It’s important to be aware and present when caring for your children or parents. Mixing the two approaches can certainly increase your stress level.

It’s time to take care of you.

The sandwich generation wants to do the best they can caring for both children and parents. Setting boundaries for self-care can be difficult. Both saying no and asking for help is needed so your health will not become a problem. Overextending yourself is a guarantee that burnout and resentment are not far behind. Giving you permission to say no and finding support and resources can make a difference. Self-care time is first, like placing the oxygen mask on you in the airplane before others. Basics, such as meals, sleep and relaxation time will keep you fueled to properly deal with stress. You will deal with situations totally different when you have sleep and nutrition on your side.

20 thoughts on “The Sandwich Generation: How to Live in the Middle”

  1. What a question Lisa, really hit me right in the gut–"Are you borrowing from your health"?  Thanks for the reminder to schedule time to take care of me everyday.

  2. I have found myself to be part of the sandwich generation. With my mom who had Alzheimer's Disease while my kids were in their late teens and early twenties, it could be stressful.  My children were more independent, but still needed me for certain things. Luckily the situation is temporary. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is such an overlooked issue Lisa yet is affecting so many of our generation. Such sound advice you give to take care of ourselves – sounds obvious but if we burn ourselves out we are not going to be able to help anybody!

  4. "Still it’s really tough to let go of deeply engrained beliefs about work ethic. Many Baby Boomers were raised to work hard until the job is done."
    Yes, I am just emerging from a 2-3 year healing process from decades of tremendous effort as a single parent and professional. I hope to continue to emphasize personal care as a priority to my daughter. She seems to have easily taken to the message as hard work = virtue.

    1. What a beautiful gift to your daughter, Lorrie. Thank you for being part in breaking the cycle.

  5. I recently experienced this, even though I am an Xer…I have a 10 year old and was looking after my Dad too. It is a juggling act and I didn't take good care. Ended up with a broken ankle and even more stressed! Great article I will be sharing 🙂

    1. Anita, that’s a lot to deal with at one time. Hugs , take a deep breath and I’m here for you!

  6. Excellent information here Lisa!  It's so crucial to help people realize that in order to be a care giver on any level – we must learn to have a mindset of what I like to call "self-first"

  7. Love the expression "borrowing from your health," Lisa!  And the sandwich generation issue isn't going away any time soon.  According to the Social Security site:  "About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95."  So I think we'd better sort this one out.  Fast!

    1. It’s true, Sharon! We have to open our eyes to the reality of the situation and develop strategies to prepared

  8. My sandwich only has one slice of bread…my inlaws…I gotta tell you, I was in no way prepared to have my inlaws in the house with me especially not a small house like this…it has been a huge stress factor for me that I times I have felt was going to swallow me whole…This has not proven my most graceful moment in life…I always said love was enough and I do love them deeply but I want them out of my house…lol…I cant imagine having a full sandwich….yikes…

    1. Having additional generations in your home is stressful whether it’s an open face or a full fledged sandwich! Have you developed some strategies to deal with th stress?

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