From Sandwich Generation To Panini Generation: How Pressures Have Increased On Family Caregivers

Local Richmond elder care expert provides resources to help the nearly 60% of sandwich generation caregivers who don’t know where to turn
Richmond, British Columbia (September 29, 2022) – Today’s sandwich generation is pressed between the weight of their responsibilities: caring for aging parents while raising children in the midst of ever-changing economic and societal shifts. As the average life expectancy continues to increase, and families wait longer to have children, the demand on those caring for generations on either side of them only intensifies. As these pressures continue to weigh heavier on these caregivers, those in the sandwich generation feel more like a panini – pressed between two piping hot grill plates. And most don’t know where to turn for support.
According to Statistics Canadaone in four Canadians provide care to someone else and a majority of Canadian caregivers are between the ages of 45-64. With the national dependency ratio (the number of dependents aged zero to 14 and over the age of 65) hitting a 20-year high in 2021, caregivers are facing mounting pressures now more than ever.
“Caring for an aging loved one in and of itself, while incredibly profound and important, can be a major challenge for families,” describes Jeremiah Cristall owner of the Home Instead® office serving Richmond, North Delta and Central Surrey “For those who are also raising young children in the midst of shifting economic and societal uncertainty – compounded by an ongoing pandemic – it’s clear today’s caregivers are under a more complex strain than any previous sandwich generation before them.”
In fact, approximately half (44%) of the sandwich generation say the pandemic has made it harder to juggle their caregiving responsibilities, according to a recent survey of Canadian and U.S. adults from Home Instead, Inc. In addition to concern for the impact of COVID on aging loved ones (67%) or children (57%), these family caregivers also say personal financial and mental health concerns (54%), concern for mental health of their aging loved one (50%), and childcare challenges (41%) are all contributing to their challenges.
The Home Instead survey revealed that these issues are manifesting in many ways. Nearly half (48%) have avoided personal travel, cut expenses, or shifted budgets (45%) to meet responsibilities of caring for an aging parent. One very sobering statistic: almost one in four of the sandwich generation (23%) have quit a job that made it too hard to be a caregiver for an aging loved one.
The outlook is not much better for those who have remained in the workforce. Among the working sandwich generation caregivers, 48% say their employer has warned them that their caregiving responsibilities are jeopardizing their job. And the majority feel they have been passed over for either a promotion (59%) or raise (56%) because of their caregiving responsibilities.
Unfortunately, help feels out of reach for many, as the majority of the sandwich generation (59%) doesn’t know where to turn or how to ask for help when it comes to relief from their caregiving duties.
“It is absolutely critical that we support those caring for young children and their aging loved ones simultaneously,” implored Cristall “We hear from these families every day, and while some opt for help in the form of professional care, there are many things that can be done by employers, friends, and others.”
Just as most family caregivers don’t know what to ask for, many in their circles don’t know how they can help. Beyond the open-ended, “Let me know what you need,” it’s helpful for friends and loved ones to offer specific suggestions. Home Instead offers ideas for those who want to show their support.
Hands On Help: Taking a few tasks off a family caregiver’s plate can help them catch up on other tasks or simply recharge.
  • Invite their kids for an outing or offer them a ride. Offer a playdate or have their kids join you on your next outing to the park or other kid-friendly destination. If your kids go the same school or are on the same team, pick their kids up on the way. 
  • Meet their parents. If you feel comfortable, offer to spend time with the person’s aging loved one so they can take a short break. You could offer to bring over coffee and chat or take the loved one to lunch or for a drive.
  • Deliver a care package. On your next grocery run, consider picking up a few essentials to make a porch delivery. You might ask what they need and add in a few items you know they’ll want.
 Moral Support: Just being there for a family caregiver can be the release valve they need.
  • Listen and be empathetic. When people are under stress, sometimes they just want to feel heard. Instead of offering advice, listen and acknowledge that this is hard, and you’re sorry they’re going through this. Most of all, do not be judgmental of how loved ones decide to provide care to their elders or their children. Be supportive.
  • Give your friend some space but keep them included. Burnout is common. Look for signs of isolation and depression and keep reaching out, even if they’re not always able to respond. It’s also important to let your friend opt out from social interaction. Keep them included with invitations to social activities, but don’t make them feel guilty when they decline. 
  • Be supportive in the workplace. Working caregivers often feel torn between being a good employee and being a good daughter, son, or parent. Ensure your colleagues feel comfortable taking the time they need for urgent family matters. Work together to align on manageable expectations. 
To support sandwich generation caregivers and their families, Home Instead offers a selection of free resources for family caregivers and their employers, available at https://www.homeinstead.com/mediaroom/sandwich-generation-v2/. Cristall encourages those feeling the pressure to check it out.
“If you’re in a good place with your own wellness, you can be a far stronger care provider for your loved ones,” Cristall said.
For those seeking professional support, your local Home Instead Care Professionals may be available to offer care. Local Home Instead offices can provide personalized care plans for aging loved ones, tailored to meet the unique needs of families and help alleviate pressure – allowing more room for other responsibilities, or simply time to rest. For more information, visit www.homeinstead.ca to find an office near you.