“Sandwich(ed) generation” is a phrase that’s commonly used to describe family caregivers who are stuck in the middle, caring for their children as well as their parents.
We’re here to tell you this label is unfair and divisive. When people in the media and aging sectors use it, it breaks our hearts a little.
Here’s why:1 Terms like these create an unnecessary divide between family caregivers. Instead of categorizing ourselves into groups, we should be uniting collectively to elevate our visibility as a major source of power and energy.
Caregivers are divided enough already. We have:
- people caring for their elderly family members.
- people caring for their family members with disabilities (and there are all kinds of iterations of family caregiving within this group, as well, from life stage of the person a disability to the type of disability to age to the relation of the caregiver). and
- people caring for military veterans…
Just to name a few.2 Just because a person isn’t balancing caregiving with parenting, doesn’t mean they’re not sandwiched.
They could be sandwiched between:
- building a career and helping an adult sibling with intellectual disabilities
- running a small business and caring for a parent or grandparent
- managing their own disability while meeting the support needs of a parent
- holding onto their job and sanity while caring for two or more family members
While caregiving, we are all balancing multiple roles while meeting life’s challenges and everyday demands. All versions of caregiving are hard.
When we focus our messaging only on “sandwiched family caregivers,” we are diminishing the hardships (and triumphs) of caregivers who don’t have children, but have a plate that’s just as full.
Sandwiched caregivers come from all walks of life. We belong to every demographic. All racial and religious groups, all income levels, and all zip codes.
What we all share is a need for a common language so we can find information and support to help us navigate our journeys.
That’s why we’re fighting back against the accepted definition of “sandwiched family caregivers.”
We want to validate and honor every single caregiver’s unique experience. It doesn’t matter if you are a single mom raising a young child while coordinating your aunt’s care in the memory care facility or you just took a job as an executive director and your dad just got a dementia diagnosis.
We all have our sandwiches. We all have the same basic needs for information, emotional support, and high quality services.
Our challenge to you is to think a little more broadly about what it means to be sandwiched.
If you’re helping an aging family member or a loved one with a disability, we can help. Reach out for support.