What is the ‘sandwich generation’?
The ‘sandwich generation’ was a term coined in the 1980’s to describe parents in their late forties or early fifties who were juggling raising troublesome teenagers at the same time as caring for their ageing parents. Fast-forward forty years to a global pandemic lockdown and we are seeing a new, much younger sandwich generation of thirty somethings (male and female) who face managing childcare, looking after their parents from afar and the challenges of working from home.
Parenting our parents – role reversal
Having relied on grandparents for childcare and financial support in the past, roles have suddenly reversed. The sandwich generation are now supporting their parents, many of whom would consider themselves fit and healthy, but are now being told to shield or self-isolate and stay in their homes for extended periods of time. From arranging food deliveries to helping set up video call apps, the older generation have become more reliant on their adult children.
On top of practical help, there is also a greater need for emotional support as we all face the unknown and come to terms with aspects of social distancing. For many this might give a glimpse into a future where further care is required and may not be able to be provided from afar.
Caring for ageing parents
The sandwich generation are under a great deal of pressure juggling multi-generational responsibilities and this can result in stress, guilt and worry for many families. The challenges become harder to overcome if a parent becomes ill and requires an increased level of care.
As long-term and elderly care solicitors we often meet people who have real concerns about how to best care for their aging parents. In many cases, a parent has become ill, been admitted to hospital and it has been decided that they will need considerable care at home afterwards. The level of care required after coming out of hospital might mean considering a care home.
Heledd Wyn, specialist care solicitor, shares her top tips and practical advice for those who are caring for others and looking for help:
Lean on your support network
- Whoever they might be. Perhaps friends and other family members can help share the load or at least be on the end of the phone when you need to talk.
- Make the most of any local support groups who may now be offering online services and advice services.
- Don’t be afraid to contact a professional if you need advice and support. As lawyers we provide advice from a legal perspective, but we are also able to signpost you to other professionals within our care network.
Take a break from your phone and email
- If you are the primary carer for an elderly relative, other family members are more than likely bombarding you with questions and requests for updates. Think about setting up easy to manage group messages, and remember that you can control when and how often you keep people up to date.
Managing the extra pressures of working from home
- You may need to vary your working hours, for example with flexible start and finish times.
- Let your employer know what’s going on so that they can explain the options available to you.
Social distancing and care
- If you live away from your parents or older relatives, you may be limited by the current social distancing rules. This can make it difficult to look after them and provide support.
- There are ways of providing help from afar – booking online food shopping, helping them set up their home technology so they can stay in touch with you and their friends more easily, help them set up online banking to make managing finances easier.
Talk about the future
Admitting that your once young and independent parents now need some looking after can be hard. If they require specialist long term care there is a level of grief in accepting that you can no longer look after them at home.
It’s important to have those difficult discussions with family and once everything is out in the open you can make a plan to move forward. Do you know what they would like their future to look like? Do you have all the necessary legal formalities in place to ensure seamless support? Reviewing Wills, setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney and considering an Advance Decision (Living Will) will ensure that whatever happens in the future, you and your family will be in the best position to make changes.
Specialist advice about care options
These professional bodies are also a good place to find information:
Charities providing support: