The sandwich generation
Updated 15 August 2016
Looking after elderly parents... and young grandchildren
One of the implications of living longer is that there’s now a strong chance that one or both of your parents will be alive when you retire.
However, their health may be failing and this can mean that you spend a significant amount of time caring for and looking after frail parents. What’s more, you may have grandchildren being brought up in homes where both parents work. That can mean that your children make demands on your time to help with looking after your grandchildren.
Of course, it’s a delight to spend time with grandchildren and we all want to look after our parents if they need help and support, but that’s not quite the same as the stress caused by formal demands on our time to act as unpaid babysitters and to take on the role of carer to elderly parents.
However, much we love our family, the burden can become intolerable and it can put strain on our own relationships with partner causing depression and extreme tiredness. This is the dilemma of the so called ‘sandwich generation’. There is no easy answer, but here are some thoughts on how to make the situation a little more tolerable:
- Talk to your children. It’s important that you’re open and honest. Explain to your children that while you love seeing your grandchildren, being treated as an unpaid carer isn’t how you’d seen the relationship develop and while you’re happy to help out with babysitting whenever you can, you can’t always be at their beck and call.
- Talk to your parents. These can be very difficult conversations to have, but your parents need to know that you are there for them, but you may not always have the time to do everything they’d like you to do. What’s more, you need rest and relaxation and they need to recognise this.
- Talk to the rest of the family. All too often, the burden of caring isn’t spread fairly. There can be many reasons, but it’s important to talk openly otherwise issues will fester and cause resentment. It’s often the case that there isn’t a shared view of the problem or the solution, with some members of the family possibly in denial about how serious the situation may be.
Secure your finances. You may be able to apply for financial support if you’re caring for elderly relatives such as Carer’s Allowance. Make sure that your relatives apply for any disability allowances or support they may be entitled to. You can find more information from Carers UK