The ‘Sandwich Generation’

When parents of children who still needing parenting, have elderly parents/relatives that also need care, the new catch phrase for this is ‘the sandwich generation’ – sandwiched between the needs of children and ageing parents. This has been our existence for more than 7 years.

My main focus has for many years has been firstly raising our children. However, in the past we helped with the care of my grandparents and in recent years we took on the main role within the family of both caring and looking out for my ‘in-laws’ – a role that has been both challenging and rewarding. As a result it has been difficult many times to also maintain a strong focus within my artwork with the reality that at any time I would need to drop everything and spend time helping them.


We have cared for our elderly relatives both in their own homes and within nursing home care. As many people in the situation of having a family member in nursing home care – it is not a simple matter of someone being in care and all is resolved! More and more it is falling to family to care for the relatives in care with understaffing and a variety of other issues. Unfortunately I cannot see this improving with current government and industry attitudes. Staff in our experience are mostly kind and generous but there simply is not enough of them and they work under ‘systems’ that range from good to very poor. So it falls to relatives who care to be there to help their loved one.

However there have been benefits for us in this ‘the sandwich generation’ – it brings back a strong focus on family, on everyone working together to help each other. Sure there have been many times when the stress of being pulled in 6 different directions has been enormous but it has also been wonderful when our whole family has worked towards helping another member who needs the care of family. Listening to someone’s life story and being able to get some sense of history through this is also wonderful. As I said previously teaching our children to look after others – particularly the frail elderly – has been an important focus for us as parents. Being able to be compassionate and helping others is important.

So to the current state of affairs.

When you get involved with caring for and looking after others, it is not just the actual time spent with that person(s) it is also what I call the ‘background noise’. The constant worry of what they need and what you need to do, and are able or as the case may be not able to actually do. When you do this for 7 years and then that person(s) passes away you still seem to have some residual ‘background noise’ – you think every day ‘I need to visit’ etc etc – except you don’t.

So adjusting the focus has been challenging.

2 thoughts on “The ‘Sandwich Generation’

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  1. I like your term “background noise.” As a sandwich generation mom and daughter I found that the real exhaustion came not from the physical care (I had three teenage daughters and my mom lived with us–she had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) but from the weight of concern. I couldn’t “fix” my mom–I coudn’t make her happy or reassure her that she was not, indeed dying.

    We carry this weight, this love and concern.–and it changes us.
    For me, I found it made me stronger, braver, and more tender.

    ~Carol D. O’Dell
    Author, Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
    availalbe on Amazon

  2. Thankyou Carol for you comments – I wrote about ‘the sandwich generation’ as increasingly I think many people are finding themselves in this situation. Our family feels that caring for ‘family’ and particularly the elderly is important but sometimes it is good to talk with others of our experiences – that way people don’t feel so alone.
    kind regards

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