Feeling the Squeeze? How to Cope When You’re Caught in the Sandwich Generation
Mary Mobley knows a few things about juggling: work, parenting, and caring for her 85-year-old mother, a United Hebrew’s Willow Towers Assisted Living resident, are always top-of-mind.
The Manhattan resident worries about raising her 16-year-old son (and paying for college) and her mother’s declining health – all while wondering about how life is going to play out for her as she ages.
“I find it extremely stressful,” says Mobley, 56. “The burden is cumulative. There’s a constant fear about what’s around the next corner.”
Mobley is among a very large and growing segment of the population called the “Sandwich Generation.” This group is composed of nearly half of all adults in their 40s and 50s in the United States who are caring for a parent age 65 or older, while simultaneously raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child over 18 years of age. And about one-in-seven of in the Sandwich Generation, or 15 percent, are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.
The ramifications are profound: those in the Sandwich Generation are suffering huge stress at a time in life when they hadn’t anticipated the additional burden. While the trend shows no signs of slowing, help is available.
Easing the Burden for Those Stuck in the Middle
United Hebrew of New Rochelle knows that the stress placed on families and loved ones can be crippling, which is why they understand that the quality care they provide is not only for their residents—it extends to families.
“We provide peace of mind,” says Rita Mabli, President and CEO of United Hebrew. “Here, we take a holistic approach. Staff members across the organization’s entire campus provide activities, concerts and consistent interaction with residents so that their days are happy, comfortable, and purposeful.
“We understand that family members have a lot to worry about, and we can help relieve some of the physical and emotional stress of caregiving,” says Mabli, who offers some helpful tips for those who find themselves “sandwiched”:
- Accept help from others. Visiting a family member can take lots of time and be emotionally exhausting. Speak with friends and family to see if they can help you with visits or phone calls. Most people are eager to help, but may not know how.
- Communicate efficiently: Rather than sporadically fielding questions from people looking for updates, send out weekly or biweekly group emails or establish a phone chain.
- Use community services: Senior centers, service organizations, and localities offer a variety of programs and services for seniors including field trips, and transportation, and meal options that lighten the burden.
- Take a break: Caring for a family member can be draining. Facilities such as United Hebrew provide respite care so that you can take a vacation, spend time with your children, and recharge your batteries.
- Tap the experts: When your healthcare needs seem to be spiraling out of control, turn to the experts to help navigate your healthcare and residential care options.
As for Mobley, who visits her mother at Willow Towers as often as four times per week, relying on the staff and professionals has been a big help. The fact that they are taking good care of her mother goes a long way to ease her stress because she knows her mother is in good hands.
“They are retaining her dignity and recognizing her as an individual, and I really appreciate that,” Mobley says. “It’s not taken for granted that the residents there are living well … and that there is still living to be done.”