Updated: May 19
Some clients and their families stay in an attorney's memory long after their case is completed. I assisted one such family with their Medicaid approval. Our client, who was the patriarch of his family, was experiencing a rapid decline in cognitive functioning. Our client’s wife was a lovely woman, who was understandably overwhelmed by her husband’s condition and the process of Medicaid. Her husband had handled all their financial decisions throughout their marriage, which was common in their generation. Their adult daughter resided several hours away; she was a married, highly successful professional with small children.
Their daughter was doggedly determined to learn the Medicaid process, so she could assist her mother and father during this distressing time. Despite her busy work schedule, she attended all the client meetings with her mother; she drove to her parents' home with her children on weekends; and she researched all the issues that impacted her family. She lovingly assumed the leadership role during an emotionally-charged time.
One morning, this fiercely determined, strong woman disclosed to me, through tears, that she was experiencing tremendous stress. She felt alone in the struggle of succeeding in her career, raising her children, enjoying her young family, and caring for her aging parents. I reassured her that she wasn’t alone. She was a member of the “Sandwich Generation.”
The Sandwich Generation is comprised of adults, typically aged 40 to 50, who are raising their own children while caring for their parents, who are 65 years or older. Surprisingly, the term and concept aren’t new. Two social workers coined the term “Sandwich Generation” in 1981 to describe caregivers who are sandwiched between their own children and their aging parents. The term brought light to the hidden struggles of dual caregivers, who are primarily women.
These caregivers experience sleeplessness, depression, guilt, anxiety, and burnout. The emotional toll of being a dual caregiver manifests in a change of eating habits, a decline in exercise, and an increased use of medications. The symptoms of stress can cause a weakened immune system and slow healing, which may result in increased absences from work.
As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the number of those in the Sandwich Generation also increases. In 2011, the first of the Baby Boom generation reached retirement age. Thereafter, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turned/turn 65 every day. In 2020, there were 73 million Baby Boomers in the United States. In 2021, approximately 54% of Americans in their 40s had a parent who was 65 years of age or older, as well as a child under 18 years old or a financially dependent young adult child.
What does this mean? It means that my client's daughter was far from alone in her struggles of the Sandwich Generation. Knowing she wasn’t alone comforted her that day. True to her impressive personality, she said she would research more about her caregiving peers, and I hope that she did. During the difficult time of parental aging, a strong support group among family and friends is critical for caregivers. It also helps knowing that you are part of a larger group of people across the country, who are experiencing the same issues associated with the health of aging parents.
Attorneys specializing in elder law can help the Sandwich Generation find balance. If the aging parent requires a high level of care, then placement into a skilled nursing facility may be necessary. If the elder parent requires a moderate level of care, then an assisted living community may be the answer. If the senior parent requires a low level of care, then home health care or community-based programs may assist the adult child in caring for their parent’s needs while maintaining their own lives of family, friends, and career. Most importantly, these options can provide respite care for the caregiver.
At Beach Barrister, we recognize that our Sandwich Generation of caregivers needs a community of support. Please visit our Beach Barrister Online Community on our BeachBarrister.com website, where we invite people who are impacted by elder law issues to gather. We’ve created a safe harbor for caregivers to connect, share experiences, and offer helpful tips. Please join us!
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Beach Barrister is NOT a substitute for legal counsel. We highly encourage every viewer of this site to seek a local, licensed, reputable attorney to assist you with your state-specific laws, planning goals, and execution of documents.
 Northwest Primary Care, Health Care and the Sandwich Generation, 2015, https://www.nwpc.com/health-care-and-the-sandwich-generation-infographic/ (last viewed November 4, 2022).  “Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males.” Family Caregiver Alliance, Caregiver Statistics: Demographics, 2016, https://www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiver-statistics-demographics/ (last viewed November 4, 2022).  Northwest Primary Care, supra note 1.  Id.  Id.
 The Baby Boom generation is comprised of those born in mid-1946 to mid-1964. The United States Census Bureau, 2020 Census Will Help Policymakers Prepare For The Incoming Wave of Aging Boomers, December 10, 2019, https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/12/by-2030-all-baby-boomers-will-be-age-65-or-older.html (last viewed November 4, 2022).  Id.  D’vera Cohn and Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center, Baby Boomers Reach 65—Glumly, December 20, 2010, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2010/12/20/baby-boomers-approach-65-glumly/ (last viewed November 4, 2022).  The United States Census Bureau, supra note 6.  Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Pew Research, More than half of Americans in their 40s are ‘sandwiched' between an aging parent and their own children April 8, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/04/08/more-than-half-of- americans-in-their-40s-are-sandwiched-between-an-aging-parent-and-their-own-children/ (last viewed November 9, 2022).
 Respite care is defined as “provid[ing] short-term relief for caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care [for the aging parent] can be provided in the home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day care center.” National Institute on Aging, What is Respite Care? May 1, 2017, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-respite-care, (last viewed November 4, 2022).