Welcome to the Sandwich Generation

by Barbara Friesner - Date: 2006-12-22 - Word Count: 550 Share This!

First we couldn't have any. Then we could have it all. Then we realized we didn't want it all. So how come we're still doing it all - and feeling guilty about it to boot!?

Welcome to the "Sandwich Generation"!

So much has been written lately about the "Sandwich Generation" - those caring for both their children and their aging parents. It's an important subject, especially because, while Baby Boomer men are also members of the sandwich generation, the overwhelming impact is on Baby Boomer women.

Why are women bearing the brunt of elder-care? Because we're a product of our parent's generational expectations and they expect us - their daughters (and daughters-in-law) - to be their caregivers. For them, it's our job . . . it's simply "what is".

Why do we feel guilty? Because while most people think of Baby Boomers in terms of the independence and equality of the '60's, our parent's generational expectations were instilled in us during our formative years, long before the advent of the Women's Movement - expectations which continue to be reinforced at every turn with pictures and articles about a women's role and responsibility as the caregiver.

What can we do? For one thing, we can begin by educating. Educating your employers and co-workers (men as well as women) on the financial impact to business. For example, that according to a 1999 national MetLife survey: U.S. businesses lose $11.4 to $29 billion per year due to care-giving and recent estimates are that 69% to 83% of family or informal caregivers are women. The cost to businesses to replace women caregivers who quit their jobs because of their caregiving responsibilities has been estimated at $3.3 billion. Absenteeism among women caregivers due to care-giving responsibilities costs businesses almost $270 million. 82% of working caregivers came into work late or left early as a result of their care-giving. The cost to businesses because of partial absenteeism (e. g., extended lunch breaks, leaving work early or arriving late) due to women's care-giving has been estimated at $327 million. Care-giving-related workday interruptions add another $3.8 billion.

Educating your husbands, brothers, and male friends on the financial and quality-of-life impact elder-care has on the family. For example, that:

According to results from a 1994-1995 study, the odds of women spousal caregivers retiring are more than five times that of non-caregivers (and women who provide assistance to multiple family members or friends have 50% higher odds of retiring than non-care-giving women), thus reducing the current and future income and benefits upon which the family depends. Women who can't retire are left to cope to the best of their financial and emotional abilities - often at a substantial cost to both the caregiver and the family's long-term mental, physical, and emotional health. Elder-care is expensive, not only in terms of income but also expenses for such things as prescription medications, safety equipment (such as installing safety bars or a wheelchair ramp), or purchasing consumable supplies (such as disposable undergarments) - further impacting the family budget and stressing the relationship.

And educating your parents. Help them understand that, although you want to do what you can, The reality of your life is different from their generational expectations - that you also have the day-to-day responsibility of family and jobs. And that their sons should be allowed to help with the care-giving, too.

As with child care, help is on the way!

Related Tags: parents, sandwich generation, generation, eldercare, adult children

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving™ 2001-2006 You can find information about Generational Coaching, AgeWiseLiving™ seminars, and to sign up for Barbara's monthly newsletter at http://www.AgeWiseLiving.com or by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University, where she created and teaches "Seniors Housing Management" at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration.

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