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Question about the "Sandwich Generation"


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I think life expectancies and the way childbearing years have been pushed back is impacting the way people are experiencing this. Parents are aging--and in many cases living a long time with fairly debilitating illnesses--while their children are smack in the middle of raising their own kids.

 

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Many people are in the second generation of women having kids at an older age.  So there are women who have both aging parents and *young* children at home.  

For example, my parents were 35 and 38 when I was born.  But my kids were born when I was 25 and 28.  

So — my parents are getting to that point, but my youngest kids just turned 10.  

But if I had waited until later to have kids, I could have very young kids right now.

I think it makes a big difference now with getting into the second generation where the middle generation might have been born late and also have kids late.  

For my own mom, she had two kids graduated and only me left at home, when she had elder care, and I was a teenager.  

So anyway — I think the likelihood of the middle generation having young kids in the home, makes a big difference, and I think it is different.  

 

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It is interesting in my family, because my oldest sister had years of infertility before her kids were born.  They were born much later than they were planned or wanted. 

But she was born when my mom and dad were still young, only 24 and 27.  

So she still has one kid in college and one in high school, even though she had kids later.  

For us, my parents’ divorce has lead to two households needing elder care, as well, and that used to be less common, too.  

To me, I don’t consider being “sandwiched” since my kids will not be so young.  I think of that as more of a term for people who have little kids at home, not teens.  But I don’t know if that is how it is usually used.  

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Well, I don’t work outside the home, but I live a 23-hour drive away from my hometown, which is leaving an undue burden on my sister.  We hope to move there in about 18 months though. But my husband’s job has brought us here.  So I think that a greater number of jobs migrating to cities is also a factor.  Or a lack of jobs in certain areas that cause more young people to move away from their parents.  It’s not exactly that for us, but I see it a lot where I live now.  A lot of people at church have adult kids who would like to live here but couldn’t find work here.  

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It also could have to do with how many young adults go to college now.

When my great grandparents started to need care, my parents and their siblings were all old teens or young adults.  None of them went to college (and there were plenty of well paying jobs available with just a high school diploma), so they were pretty much all out on their own and my grandparents were largely free to turn their attention away from their empty nests and toward their parents.  Also, since all three generations lived in close proximity, my parents and their siblings were nearby to help pitch in with things like shopping for their grandparents or mowing their lawns. 

This is quite different than my parents' experience caring for their parents.  They had my brother and I later, and since we went to college, they were still supporting us financially and logistically well after their parents started to need care.  Also, neither my brother or I live very close anymore, so we can't help much with my grandparents' upkeep.

Wendy

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There's another difference, besides the living longer with serious medical issues, fewer children to caretake, more tuition to pay, families spread out geographically, and fewer homemakers, that the elderly seem to be more entitled. My mil would never have dreamt of actually HELPING raise grandchildren. We looked at bringing her into our home, but it wasn't a matter of "here's a nice room for you and the bathroom will be made handicapped accessible, etc." but her demands of "you need to drive me to town every day, and I need a place to meet my 'counseling' patients, and the kids will have to drop all their stupid activities because *I* need the attention, etc." We looked at my sil taking her, using mil's money to add on to their house, but no, neither wanted to do that either. Their one kid was grown and gone, and sil was home all day but that wasn't good enough either. The idea of a grandmother holding the baby whilst mom puts a meal on the table, nope, not happening. So, she died, basically alone, as no one was good enough for her. My other sil moved back to "caretake" her, as I wasn't "doing it right" but she wasn't there (off gallivanting in another state) the night she died. Yeah, you don't want to be a part of the family, your family isn't going to want to be part of yours. 

eta: my fil did die alone. My mil had cried wolf so many times that we didn't think that actually was the case that night. Dh had taken an out of town commitment, so when mil freaked out, there was nothing I could do. She refused to stay in the room with him as she had a "counseling" patient on the phone, and I couldn't drive to town as I had a sick baby. As he wanted nothing to do with me, I didn't feel obligated. Mil was right there. She just refused to sit with him. Sad. 

Edited by Margaret in CO
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My parents were not sandwiched because 

1) all my grandparents didn’t live past 80 years old. My grandparents all passed before my parents and their siblings retired. In contrast my husband’s grandma is turning 100 years old and his dad is turning 80 years old.

2) college was cheap when my cousins, me and younger brother attended. It was at most $8k for engineering school while staying at home when my younger brother went around ten years ago. It was also easy for my cousins and me to get a part time/freelance job in urban areas once I was 14 years old (legal age for working where I was). My parents were able to pay for my brother and my college fees and expenses easily on one income.

3) housing was cheaper and bigger. My parents two bedroom home was only slightly smaller than my in-laws newer three bedroom home and cost less than half the amount. That’s just 14 years difference in age of homes. It would be hard for us to move any parents in because we can’t afford a bigger place. My in-laws home is large enough to host my husband’s grandma  if the need arise. 

So money and space wise we are sandwiched relative to my parents generation 

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I think that there are a number of factors that make this harder now.

1.  Lack of generations living in close proximity, so helping each other out often requires big physical moves.

2.  More people working longer and working longer hours.

3.  People tending to have kids later in life, so that there is less likelihood that the grandparents are physically able to help with their care (even if they wanted to/were willing to) and also more overlap between the vigors of needing to care for younger more helpless children with the vigors of need to care for frail elderly.

4.  People live longer while frail, increasing the length of time that the elderly need care.

5.  Kids fail to launch more often and more completely now.  And the downside risk to '18 and out' or 'just kicking them out' is much higher now than it used to be, making parents less willing to take that stance.

6.  Less of an attitude of interdependency.  Elderly parents may expect to be cared for without having ever expected to contribute to their kids and grandkids' lives in a meaningful way before that.  Young adults tend to try to move out and not pitch in in their families of origin.  These are both fairly new attitudes, and the implications of them are still playing out.

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My inlaws are in their 80s.  They are independent, but they are elderly and probably one fall away from a health and housing crisis.  Our youngest child is 6, and all ours are in elementary school.  We definitely feel it sometimes.  They live about 6 hours from us, which is enough to keep us from seeing them very frequently, though of course not super far.  

My own parents are only in their 60s and young and healthy.  My grandfather died this year at 92.  He only needed someone very involved in his day to day in the last 18 months.  So my mom dealt with that at 65, more than 20 years into an empty nest.  Completely different scenario.  

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I think the concept of a "sandwich generation" has mostly to with the specific concept of caretaking.

Little kids require a lot of care taking.  Diapers when they are really little, we make sure their clothes fit and are clean, make sure they have regular meals etc.....because if we don't do that, then the kids usually can't.  However, once kids get to be 16, 17, 18, etc, even if we are still doing some of those things, we aren't doing it because they are incapable.  Most 17 yr olds are perfectly capable of feeding themselves when hungry, many can drive themselves around to school or sports practice etc.

And then elderly parents often require caretaking, sometimes extensive and even in similar manners to little kids.  They may have adult restroom issues that require assistance, might be incapable of getting their clothes clean, even incapable of providing food for themselves.  

The "sandwich generation" is the generation that is stuck doing the same kind of care taking for the very young and the very old.  

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My mother’s parents were gone by the time she was my age.  At my age, my mother was footloose.  My MIL, same.  But they are both in their 90s.  My sister has care of my mom and dh has a half time job taking care of his mom.  We aren’t sandwiched but neither are we footloose.  

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1 hour ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

Isn't every generation at some point (when kids become teens and parents are older) a sandwich generation?  I know that the term is more recent, but it doesn't seem like a phenomena that has just cropped up (though I do realize that we live longer so that affects it). 

It seems to me that it has always been so. Or at least that's what I remember with my grandparents, heard about in tales of my great grandparents, and with my own experience.

I do think that some factors about the way life has evolved that have already been mentioned may make a difference (and not in a good way), but there's also always a tendency to view the past with glasses that are at least a bit rose toned. :wink: I don't think caring for elders and young kids at the same time has ever been easy, and of course all too often both now and in the past the overwhelming majority of the burden has fallen on the shoulders of women.

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My mom's generation seems to have married much younger, had their babies right away and fairly close together, and were done with child rearing before their parents and in laws were having health issues. While not a hard and fast rule, statistics appears to bear that out. My grandparents and all of their sibs were married at 17-19 years of age, and done baby having by 24 or 25. Of course their parents generation did not often last to "ripe old ages". Not one of my great grandparents or great aunts and uncles lasted very long past 65 ish. My own grandparents lived much longer, but also far more independently, and financially had been pretty wise with their planning which really helped.

I, on the other hand, married at 20 which was young for my generation, but worked, finished degrees, etc. and wasn't done with baby having until 32. Many of my friends and acquaintances were much older than that, and so they had parents in their 60's while their toddlers were running around, and none of us have been done child rearing before our parents were in their 70's and having health problems. Additionally, my parents' generation also achieved financial independence at younger ages so the amount of time their parents had assisting young adult children was abbreviated to what most of us are now experiencing, and contrary to popular belief it isn't because our kids are lazy bums, but because they need more education and training to get jobs, and inflation has way out paced wages. Add to that the healthcare access and paying for it issues, and it's a mess. Thus we end up supporting three generations at once!

One big change is that my grandparents and previous generations tended to live well until injury or major illness/disease beset them, and then they faded fairly quickly so long term care giving of a chronically ill or sick elder wasn't quite so commonly necessary. Now what we have is a lot of medical advancement and support which doesn't increase quality of life, and rarely increases independence but provides for elderly folks to live decades with limited ability, limited faculties, often limited mobility.  Whereas the previous generation might not have gone to the doctor very often or had a lot of treatments because this kind of care was not available, now it's an onslaught of medical appointments and tests, scheduling becoming a nightmare. So the care giving burden starts while parents are still raising kids and goes on for years and years and years and years with greater intensity. Another interesting point is that the diet of my grandparents and their general lifestyle was healthier than my parents and their friends. According to my doctor, the elderly now are sicker and have less mobility across the board than their parents' generation. But our society has not evolved with this rampant change in medical progress to support the outcome.

We have also emerged from the "golden age" of single income homes being possible and normal. Cost of living has far outpaced wages while things like pensions and company loyalty have tanked. This means my generation and that of my children must be far more mobile, able to move regularly throughout the course of careers which doesn't lend itself to care giving at all or remaining in mum and dad's home town in order to look after them, and without a financial safety net that allows for one parent to remain stay at home after the children have left in order to care give for the elders. Our generation also has to work longer to draw full social security, and one of the fixes that both political parties have toyed with is increasing that age yet again so that we have to be 67 to draw at all, and potentially even 67 to get medicare. This means working full time for health benefits  - if you can find a job that has them - later than our parents did and these same parents will be in their mid-80's and older at that point.

Yes, if I could stay home like my mother did for the all of two years that my grandmother required care - and interestingly enough my mother did not do the physical care, just coordinated the workers because grandma had savings which my mom does not- then this would be a heck of a lot easier. But I can't. We have kids in college and the EFC for three is eating us alive. We have to keep putting away for retirement because now that we are in our 50's, we don't have the time to recover from bumps in the economy like we used to so the financial pressure is on, and my generation can't be in two and three places at once and remain on good terms with our employers. Our health deductible is substantial so it seems very unwise for me to even think about not working.

So it's different, bad wage economy, high cost of living, increased maternal age, increased life spans that do not necessarily represent being independent in all of those later years, cost of health care, lack of planning for all of this in our culture and governmental leadership, largest generation all hitting this age range in a large block, cultural expectation of independence being maintained at all costs, etc. all makes for a pretty big crisis. 

A lot of people talk about multi-generational living. That only works if the elders are going to be decent about it, and if dementia is not an issue. Dementia patients often require a 24/7 staff just to keep them and everyone else safe. The culture has to change too. Most homes aren't set up for it, and you'd be surprised how many zoning laws prevent this or remodeling to become a multi-family home within a single family type dwelling. It's also immensely expensive to remodel homes that don't have wheelchair ramps, handicap accessible bathrooms, etc. If the elders don't have the money, it is one more burden that falls to an already overwhelmed family.

 

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My mom and aunts weren’t really sandwiched. I think my (younger) cousins were all teens when our grandparents really needed help.

My mom and stepdad are okay at mid to late 60s.  Though they moved away, I don’t imagine them needing a whole lot before my youngest is a teen.  I’m the oldest and had kids young. One of my sisters does have two very young kids though. She’s the youngest and had kids later.

They should all move back to our home area. ? 

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5 hours ago, maize said:

I think life expectancies and the way childbearing years have been pushed back is impacting the way people are experiencing this. Parents are aging--and in many cases living a long time with fairly debilitating illnesses--while their children are smack in the middle of raising their own kids.

 

 

There’s always been a sandwich generation. These days it’s more compressed (delayed childbearing, delayed adolescence, longer life spans without always the accompanying ability to live independently), plus the one in the middle has higher expectations upon her than in previous generations, when many/more/most women were prettty much full time homemakers and kids weren’t involved in activities other than those based in/around the neighborhood school and/or church.

(is there a prize for longest sentence of the day?)

 

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Several of you have mentioned that the impact is most felt by those with *young* children in the home. I’m going to strongly disagree. For one, if a teen isn’t driving oneself, regular transportation to outside activities may be impossible. Also, even when teens are able to drive, they’re still in need of a parent’s attention and guidance. If you have teens, you know that this phase of parenting requires careful attentiveness and intuition - these can be hard to come by when you have a full time task of a very needy elder. My youngest probably suffered the most of all in the family as a result of our in home care giving. She had to drop out of several beloved activities and endure many hurtful careless  words flung about by the elder when I spent “too much time helping that kid with math,” among other things. 

I wish it could all be sweet and rosy, like in Heidi. It’s definitely character building. 

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I think sandwich generation is more a person-specific term than a sociological term. As in, a person who is caring for elderly parents before thier own children have launched is the “sandwich generation” in that family. This could happen in any of the named generations, “Silent” “Greatest” “Baby Boom” “Gen X” “Millennial.”

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2 hours ago, OKBud said:

 

If both of my parents need to move in with someone at some point-- I am the only option. But they are divorced. If they are just in town and need me to drive around and do things of that nature for them, it nearly doubles the workload than if they lived together. 

[and step-parents??? Ugh]

Divorce continues to be the gift that just keeps giving. 

 

I've sometimes imagined what might happen with the elders n our family all needing care, including my divorced parents.  If it happens, I think I might move them all in with us and support ourselves with a reality tv show.

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I do sometimes think - when the "decision" was made for economic reasons to have small families, delaying childbearing, women entering the workforce, and a mobile workforce where families are scattered - that is we decided that would be the kind of economy we would build - did no one think that this sort of thing would happen - that there would be gaps in the power of families and communities to do things like care for kids, elders, the ill, etc?

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9 minutes ago, Medicmom2.0 said:

People with COPD, heart failure, dementia and mobility issues are living decades past diagnosis.  

I think this is a huge issue. 

One of my grandmothers died of cancer about 40 years ago.  She was in perfect health until a couple weeks before she was diagnosed, and she died about 6 months later. 

My other grandmother died of cancer last year.  Except she was actually diagnosed over a decade ago.  The last 10 years have been filled with radiation and chemo and surgery and colostomy bags and hospital stays and endless doctor's visits to try to keep the cancer at bay as it slowly spread through her body.  For an entire decade, my mom and her siblings had to structure their lives around getting my grandmother to the doctor, taking her shopping, helping her shower, doing her laundry, keeping up her yard, sorting her medications, and all the other tasks that needed doing.  Fortunately, my grandmother had 8 children, and they all still lived close, so the burden was diffused a bit.  OTOH, most of her children were still working and raising families, so I know they felt very sandwiched when my grandmother's medical needs stretched over such a long time period.

Wendy

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I think a lot of it has to do with modern busyness and modern housing coupled with greater spacing between generations. I grew up in a rural town that was completely walkable--similar towns near where I live have only touristy stores and offices in town--you have to drive outside of town for useful things; it makes a really big difference when access to stores and services is available on foot, nearby, and not a giant traffic jam! It takes minutes to run errands there that can take an hour here just due to traffic and lots of lights in a short distance. I know lots of elderly folks (and disabled folks) who can access services more easily because of the way the town is set up. 

I think it's easy to romanticize illness in previous generations as being quicker and deadlier, but my great-grandfather languished with cancer for 7 years long before they had great treatments. He was young when he died, and he had many people involved in his care--not just my great-grandmother. I supposed my grandmother was sandwiched at that point--she helped, and she had young children at home still. Other family members had strokes and lived for years afterwards. I do have records in our family history of other family members living with their kids, but they often went from one kids' home to another vs. living permanently with one family. Sometimes elderly siblings also lived together or near each other to provide assistance.

There have been homes for elder care for a long time, they just weren't as regulated. My great-grandmother ran a boarding home for the elderly out of her house. She dispensed meds, cooked, cleaned, etc. I don't think she did much skilled nursing otherwise, but clearly there was a need for people to have care that their families couldn't provide. 

I wonder if some of the pressure comes from families having to do more skilled care that would have been done in a doctor's office (or house call!), hospital, or in a home like what my great-grandmother provided, or that care is expensive enough that families can't easily hire help. Perhaps help for activities of daily living was more affordable in previous generations.

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11 hours ago, Margaret in CO said:

There's another difference, besides the living longer with serious medical issues, fewer children to caretake, more tuition to pay, families spread out geographically, and fewer homemakers, that the elderly seem to be more entitled. Yeah, you don't want to be a part of the family, your family isn't going to want to be part of yours. 

 

 

10 hours ago, Carol in Cal. said:

I think that there are a number of factors that make this harder now.

6.  Less of an attitude of interdependency.  Elderly parents may expect to be cared for without having ever expected to contribute to their kids and grandkids' lives in a meaningful way before that. 

1

This is what I am experiencing with my parents.  Lots of expectations of me, yet very little to zero contribution to our lives.  LOTS of expectations.

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I think every generation has people who end up sandwiched. I think whatever generation is the right age at the time to be sandwiched becomes the sandwich generation.

 

I never saw my family sandwiched caring for great grandparents or grandparents. My Grandma cared for a Great Grandma after all her children were gone. Even my mom's mom was able to care for herself until I was grown though I was the youngest child of the youngest child and the same age as mostly great grandchildren. 

I will say the children of the 70's and 80's are the ones who saw the divorce rate peak. My husband and I have 6 parents to potentially care for. We also both have a mentally handicapped sibling which means there is no one to help with in laws and only one brother on my side to help and of course, our two brothers will need help at some point. My mom has more children (step dad- none) and with one sibling estranged and two of my older siblings with very young children my husband and I may have multiple to care for depending on health and other things. We might have had two more bringing the total to 8 but his father died when he was 5 ? so never remarried) My step mom used to joke that she hoped she was the healthier mom so no one pushed her wheel chair down the stairs. Yes, sometimes we laugh at morbid things but oy, I'm praying I can at least get my kids launched first having already dealt with a fair bit of elder care of my grandmother. I actually moved in with my grandmothet when my youngest were 9 and 11 until I could get her in assisted living. It was short term because we HAD to find anything we could. I was 60 miles away from my own family and couldn't really leave. Sure my olders could babysit and everyone was fed but really 9 year olds and yes, even teens need their parents. I don't think it should only be applied to people with babies and toddlers.

Where it used to be many children helping the same parents, it now often ends up 1 or 2 children helping many parents. Also, pensions and social security weren't so precarious. We have 0 pensions. If I spend all my retirement money caring for parents what will I live on when I'm older?  Also, I'm trying to get my children set up better than I was. I left home at 17 and ended up in a different state on my own. There was no college fund or any other help so it was harder to climb the ladder financially. I think there was a higher percentage of young adults making their own way then than now. Costs are so high now. So I'm also helping my children more than I was helped. 

 

 

Edited by frogger
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6 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

I do sometimes think - when the "decision" was made for economic reasons to have small families, delaying childbearing, women entering the workforce, and a mobile workforce where families are scattered - that is we decided that would be the kind of economy we would build - did no one think that this sort of thing would happen - that there would be gaps in the power of families and communities to do things like care for kids, elders, the ill, etc?

 

Nah, we figured we'd pay poor people crap wages to do that job for us instead of doing it ourselves as we have in the past. (by we I largely mean the middle class - of course the rich always had people to take care of kids and the elderly and the poor still do it themselves)

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14 hours ago, Seasider too said:

Several of you have mentioned that the impact is most felt by those with *young* children in the home. I’m going to strongly disagree. For one, if a teen isn’t driving oneself, regular transportation to outside activities may be impossible. Also, even when teens are able to drive, they’re still in need of a parent’s attention and guidance. If you have teens, you know that this phase of parenting requires careful attentiveness and intuition - these can be hard to come by when you have a full time task of a very needy elder. My youngest probably suffered the most of all in the family as a result of our in home care giving. She had to drop out of several beloved activities and endure many hurtful careless  words flung about by the elder when I spent “too much time helping that kid with math,” among other things. 

I wish it could all be sweet and rosy, like in Heidi. It’s definitely character building. 

 

I agree that these situations have a massive impact on all the kids still living at home - including teens. Those teens still need their parents. And nobody - nobody - should be expected to put their own family and minor children on hold indefinitely, because the older generation demands that their needs be front and center for years or decades. Its not the rosy picture people paint of caring for grandma for a few months while you learn to serve others and set a good example for your own children. Serious long-term care can be tough, traumatizing stuff for kids - including teens.

But don't underestimate the special hell that parents of young children go through when they are sandwiched. My kids were 6, 4, 2, and a newborn of just a few weeks when I was told by a relative that I had to leave my husband and children to move to another state to provide long-term care for a parent who abandoned me as a child. My answer was no. Just plain no. I would do what I could from afar, but I was not leaving my family. At the time, we were looking at potentially decades of care, but they died just 6 months later. And I was left as the executor of one of the messiest estates ever. It took two full years of sleepless nights and trips out of state to get it all unraveled and legally taken care of. I still get emotional when I think of how much I missed and the impact it had on my very small children. 

5 hours ago, frogger said:

I think every generation has people who end up sandwiched. I think whatever generation is the right age at the time to be sandwiched becomes the sandwich generation.

 

I never saw my family sandwiched caring for great grandparents or grandparents. My Grandma cared for a Great Grandma after all her children were gone. Even my mom's mom was able to care for herself until I was grown though I was the youngest child of the youngest child and the same age as mostly great grandchildren. 

I will say the children of the 70's and 80's are the ones who saw the divorce rate peak. My husband and I have 6 parents to potentially care for. We also both have a mentally handicapped sibling which means there is no one to help with in laws and only one brother on my side to help and of course, our two brothers will need help at some point. My mom has more children (step dad- none) and with one sibling estranged and two of my older siblings with very young children my husband and I may have multiple to care for depending on health and other things. We might have had two more bringing the total to 8 but his father died when he was 5 ? so never remarried) My step mom used to joke that she hoped she was the healthier mom so no one pushed her wheel chair down the stairs. Yes, sometimes we laugh at morbid things but oy, I'm praying I can at least get my kids launched first having already dealt with a fair bit of elder care of my grandmother. I actually moved in with my grandmothet when my youngest were 9 and 11 until I could get her in assisted living. It was short term because we HAD to find anything we could. I was 60 miles away from my own family and couldn't really leave. Sure my olders could babysit and everyone was fed but really 9 year olds and yes, even teens need their parents. I don't think it should only be applied to people with babies and toddlers.

Where it used to be many children helping the same parents, it now often ends up 1 or 2 children helping many parents. Also, pensions and social security weren't so precarious. We have 0 pensions. If I spend all my retirement money caring for parents what will I live on when I'm older?  Also, I'm trying to get my children set up better than I was. I left home at 17 and ended up in a different state on my own. There was no college fund or any other help so it was harder to climb the ladder financially. I think there was a higher percentage of young adults making their own way then than now. Costs are so high now. So I'm also helping my children more than I was helped. 

 

 

 

This! Some of us have parents who selfishly rotated in and out of multiple relationships. My mother & her siblings had 6 kids to care for 2 parents (who lived frugally and saved well despite neither of them graduating from high school). But many of us face a situation of having 1-2 adult kids to care for as many as 4 divorced & remarried parents before we even consider our spouse's parents. And because of divorce & remarriage & poor financial decisions, there is no money. None. Parental divorce is just one of those gifts that keeps on giving.

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26 minutes ago, MinivanMom said:

 

I agree that these situations have a massive impact on all the kids still living at home - including teens. Those teens still need their parents. And nobody - nobody - should be expected to put their own family and minor children on hold indefinitely, because the older generation demands that their needs be front and center for years or decades. Its not the rosy picture people paint of caring for grandma for a few months while you learn to serve others and set a good example for your own children. Serious long-term care can be tough, traumatizing stuff for kids - including teens.

But don't underestimate the special hell that parents of young children go through when they are sandwiched. My kids were 6, 4, 2, and a newborn of just a few weeks when I was told by a relative that I had to leave my husband and children to move to another state to provide long-term care for a parent who abandoned me as a child. My answer was no. Just plain no. I would do what I could from afar, but I was not leaving my family. At the time, we were looking at potentially decades of care, but they died just 6 months later. And I was left as the executor of one of the messiest estates ever. It took two full years of sleepless nights and trips out of state to get it all unraveled and legally taken care of. I still get emotional when I think of how much I missed and the impact it had on my very small children. 

 

This! Some of us have parents who selfishly rotated in and out of multiple relationships. My mother & her siblings had 6 kids to care for 2 parents (who lived frugally and saved well despite neither of them graduating from high school). But many of us face a situation of having 1-2 adult kids to care for as many as 4 divorced & remarried parents before we even consider our spouse's parents. And because of divorce & remarriage & poor financial decisions, there is no money. None. Parental divorce is just one of those gifts that keeps on giving.

i agree with everything Medicmom said, and this post as well.

My nieces and nephews are dealing with divorce, remarriage on both sides, narcissism in one of those step parents. It is ugly. But, in their case, I think they have banded together to offer help when needed for my brother, but have made it clear he can move in with one of them while the others offer respite care, but the step parent cannot come and will not be provided for in any capacity.

It is all very complicated, and of course if my brother is still legally married to her when he ends up needing assistance - very likely this will happen at quite a young age because he had a stroke at 52 and never fully recovered - there will be issues with his money. She'll be entitled to all of it, and as has been seen, will not spend a dime of it to help him but hoardes it for her own fru fru lifestyle. Sigh.....

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I don't know what will happen in my family, but my step-mom just died, and she had a very strict medical directive.  She declined a lot of treatment because she didn't want to go through it.

I had a conversation with my mom, when I was in town for my step-mom's funeral, about how you cannot agree to every treatment, and you cannot expect doctors to ever say "maybe this treatment isn't going to help."  She says as doctors they are always going to recommend treatment, it is what their role is as a doctor.  

It's very, very different to me, from thinking that it is good to continue with medical treatment.

I am hearing it more and more, though, and I know it is what my mom wants.

She is a little upset with my step-dad because he does not want to fill out any medical directive, because he doesn't want to think about it.  

I do think in my family though, there is more thought to declining some medical care because they don't want to put themselves and loved ones through it.

This is definitely what my step-mom thought.  It was so hard on everyone, especially my dad and my step-sister, and that is without her suffering over a prolonged period or having a long decline.  It is sad, though, because maybe she could have lived longer.  But I know she didn't want to spend a lot of time at the end of her life going through medical treatments.  I would say this is my mom's desire as well.  

Anyway, I think there might be some changes because of people of my mom's generation seeing what it is like with all the medical treatments now available at older ages.  I think there is more of a sense of it being possible and desirable to decline treatments.

But I don't know if my dad and step-dad think of it the same way, I think it is not something they think of in the same way.

It is hard for me, to be honest, the first time I knew someone to die without doing "everything possible" I was very disappointed and angry with people who made comments like it was a good decision.  This was with someone at church.  I ended up having a long conversation with another woman at church who told me I had no idea what it was like for someone to go through cancer treatment or what it was like for the family members.  

Anyway I guess that worked out because with that experience, I was in a better place mentally when my step-mother made the same decision.  

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I guess I think of a sandwich generation as the middle generation, wherever you're at in life.  So, of course it affects you differently whether your children are younger or older.  Either way, you still feel pulled in both directions.

I'm in my 50's, and my parents only started needing help about 2 years ago, at age 88.  My children are all in their 20's and mostly on their own.  But, there are definitely special family times (I mean my dh and I and grown children) that we've put on hold so that I can be of more help to my parents.  And there's my sister who has young grandchildren in another state that she'd love to visit more (and even help care for from time to time throughout the year), but feels torn between doing that and being with our parents.

On the other hand, I don't think it needs to be quite as complicated as some people make it.  I think some amount of elder-care and making sacrifices is very natural, good, and character-building for children (at any age).  At the same time, if it's tearing apart your family or making demands on you that are clearly ridiculous (like in Minivan Mom's case), then you need to figure out other options.

 

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I also think that part and parcel in all of this is cost, cost, cost, cost, cost, cost. Previous generations may have moved grandpa or grandma in, but their net out lay of expense was one more mouth to feed, and the low price of having the country doctor out for a visit or whatever.

Now it is just so insanely expensive from long distance commutes to the myriad of specialists, to in home health care prices, all kind of medical things that are not covered by insurance. (My father figure's chest tubes were not covered by medicare - $250 a month. Guess there that came from. Yes, me because they didn't have the money.) In 1940, nobody had a $250 a month to maintain chest tube and then $50 a week for the RN to come check it which was also not covered. Times have changed. People feel the financial pressure to assist elders much more dearly. 

Oh and medical equipment. Paid a ton for that before we finally got medicare to pick up the tab. And footed the bill for the wheelchair ramp, and......

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We didn't have and won't have on our end any issues with sandwiching.  Both my parents were dead before even my first anniversary of marriage and dh's mom was okay (she refused medical treatment for decades) until she got a heart attack and died a week later in the hospital.  Dh's dad carried on for almost 20 years more but up until the last 5 years of his life, without medical issues.  He was already living with my dh;s two brothers so they took care of him during his two cancers.  We had offered to let him move in or move to an apartment nearby to have better care (both brothers were for much of that time substance abusing) but he never wanted to move from his home. He died about 6 years ago.  

My parents did not have any sandwiching either because of WW2.  My one grandmother was alive until I was about 7 but she lived in London and we were in the DC area so no care for her by my parents (except maybe some monetary?).  

What I see here is older, retired people trying to take care of their even older parents.  Plus two couples I am friends with who are caretaker of grandchildren (or grandchild)- one from mental illness of parent and the other from the tragedy of both parents dying within a few years.  And I also know old people whose spouses are the main caretakers or at least caretake managers.  

I am so thrilled that medicine has become so much better.  After all, some of the very same medicines and treatments that are keeping COPD people alive also helped me when I got a bad pneumonia and wasn't recovering well and also my young adult asthmatic daughter.  The revolution in immune system understanding and treatments are really helping so many, many people with every kind of autoimmune disease and with a number of types of cancers too.

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56 minutes ago, Faith-manor said:

I also think that part and parcel in all of this is cost, cost, cost, cost, cost, cost. Previous generations may have moved grandpa or grandma in, but their net out lay of expense was one more mouth to feed, and the low price of having the country doctor out for a visit or whatever.

Now it is just so insanely expensive from long distance commutes to the myriad of specialists, to in home health care prices, all kind of medical things that are not covered by insurance. (My father figure's chest tubes were not covered by medicare - $250 a month. Guess there that came from. Yes, me because they didn't have the money.) In 1940, nobody had a $250 a month to maintain chest tube and then $50 a week for the RN to come check it which was also not covered. Times have changed. People feel the financial pressure to assist elders much more dearly. 

Oh and medical equipment. Paid a ton for that before we finally got medicare to pick up the tab. And footed the bill for the wheelchair ramp, and......

6

This is our life, in a nutshell.  I wrote a letter with financial aid applications when my youngest was applying about how neither FAFSA nor the CSS Profile actually captured what was our financial state-- I was unable to work but also unable to get disability payments because I got disabled as such a young person, before I earned enough credits.  And there a tons of expensives we are currently paying or were paying or will pay soon including prescription medication that isn't covered by insurance, hearing aids, single use eye drops, walkers, canes,lots of other medical supplies and soon to come, modifying house and entrances. 

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I also think that the age people have children has a big affect on this. My husband's parents adopted him when they were in their late 30's, so they were old and having health problems when we had very young children and babies. My parents on the other hand were young parents and had all the kids out of the house by the time they were in their early 40's, so dealing with aging parents didn't conflict with raising children. Now that they are approaching their late 70s and early 80s, I still have children at home because I had my youngest at 42. If I hadn't had my two youngest at a later age, we would be empty nesters now. With so many people starting families later and people living longer, I only see the sandwich generation becoming bigger.

I don't think having teens really makes it less stressful either. I've found that teens can take up a lot of time with carpools, school related things, filling out college applications, and sports. While it's different than having little kids, it can be just as busy and stressful. It was often easier to just drag my young kids along to things with my in-laws and bring a pile of toys than rearrange stuff and get rides for older kids when my parents need help.

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On 11/12/2018 at 12:32 PM, Jean in Newcastle said:

Isn't every generation at some point (when kids become teens and parents are older) a sandwich generation?  I know that the term is more recent, but it doesn't seem like a phenomena that has just cropped up (though I do realize that we live longer so that affects it). 

Not in my family history. 
-My maternal grandmother (WWII bride)  cared for her mother (my great grandmother) when her daughter (my mother, an only child) was a senior is high school.  There were no young children in the home.
-My maternal grandfather (WWII soldier) was an orphan at age 12.

-My mother (Earliest Boomer) cared for her parents in her home for the last 6 months of Grandad's life and the last 2. 5 years of Grandmother's life with the helped for her 4 adult and married children/step-children.
-My step-dad (Earliest Boomer) didn't care for his mother as she died suddenly across the country.
-My father (Earliest) didn't care for his divorced parents across the country.  They needed care from his siblings when all of his and the sibling's  own kids were adults and moved out of the house. Being those kids, my brother and step-brothers helped my mother care for her parents in her home because we were all local then.

-My brother and I (late Gen X) and our step-brothers (early Gen X)  currently help our divorced parents with yard maintenance and occasional after medical treatment help while 2 of us have young children in the home.

Delayed marriage and delayed childbearing in younger generation sare affecting this generational shift just as much as increased lifespan of older generations.

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