POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 107 Continued Issue 18 THE sandwich GENERATION: Caught in the Middle What is the sandwich generation? Are you finding yourself caught between the stresses of caring for your aging parent as well as for your own children? If so, you are part of the growing number of people belonging to the so called “sandwich generation”. The term sandwich generation is used to describe those individuals sandwiched like a slice of ham between the care demands of their aging parents and those of their own children. According to the Vanier Institute of the Family, just over three-quarters of a million Canadians live in three generation households. The middle generation has the responsibility for caring for their aging parent as well as for their own children. People have been caring for their elders for centuries so how is the situation any different now than it has been in the past? For one thing, people are living longer and requiring care for longer periods of time. Improvements in medical science have increased life expectancy. They have also increased the length of time people can live with a debilitating illness before death. In Canada, the average life expectancy is 78 years old. Only 50 years ago it was 69. When couples choose not to have children until later in life, they can be pushed into the sandwich generation. Couples who do not have children until they are in their 30s or 40s can end up sandwiched between the responsibilities of caring for their young children and for an older relative simultaneously. The older relative, a grandmother for example, may be too old to take on the traditional support role of helping with childraising; she may need care herself. Even parents whose children are grown can end up in the sandwich generation if “boomerang” children move back home after divorce or job loss. Who make up the sandwich generation? Members of the sandwich generation are typically 45-60 year old, female, raising a family, have either a part or full time job and may or may not have a partner. It is a very stressful position, and the whole family feels the effect. More than one-third of sandwich generation members spend less time with their spouses and children than non-caregivers. They report feeling guilty and overwhelmed much of the time. They also get sick and suffer from exhaustion more frequently than non-caregivers. How to help Caregivers can feel alone, isolated and inadequate. No person should feel this way, especially a person who is giving so much to another. If you know someone who is caught in the sandwich generation, the best thing to do is offer him or her support and help. People caught in the sandwich generation need help. They need to have some of the pressure taken off. They need solitude, space, and appreciation from both generations. They need time with their peers, time to pursue the peek of their careers, and time to do the things they want to do. Plan ahead Even if you are not part of the sandwich generation right now, you need to consider the possibility that you may be part of it in the future. Oftentimes caregiving is not discussed until an event such as illness occurs, and care is needed immediately. This can lead to high stress and uninformed decisions. It is important to discuss the possibility of having to care for an older relative in the future, and research your caregiving options ahead of time. * Permission to photocopy with credit given to Lisa Pridmore, Summer Student, Family Service Canada.