NWPC Blog

Health Care and the Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation is a fast-growing group of individuals between the ages of 40 – 50 years old. Caught in the middle of caring for their children and their aging parents simultaneously, these caregivers experience high levels of stress. So, we’re sharing everyday stressors, statistics, and ways to combat tension as a member of the Sandwich Generation. 

The Typical American Sandwich Generation Caregiver

Two social workers named Dorothy Miller and Elaine Brody coined the term “Sandwich Generation” in 1981 to describe caregivers sandwiched between generations. Currently, statistics show that 47 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s are supporting an aging parent in their 70s while also managing their kids. The typical American Sandwich Generation caregiver is:

  • Female
  • In her mid-40s
  • Married
  • Employed

Unfortunately, stereotypical parenting and gender roles have conditioned many American households to place the responsibility of the caregiver on working mothers in their 40s. Consequently, 70% of women and only 30% of men adopt the responsibility to care for an elderly relative with chronic health issues, which causes an imbalance in expectations and increases familial stress. 

Sandwich Generation Stressors

The Sandwich Generation adopts responsibilities and services like transportation, meal planning, health care, and general housekeeping for both their kids and their parents. On average, adults in the Sandwich Generation are spending thousands of dollars a year and working over 1,350 hours annually $10,000 and 1,350 hours of work on their parents and children annually. While caring for an aging parent, essential familial stress becomes difficult to ignore and predictably influences your caregiving style. 

Caregivers managing the well-being of two generations often experience stressors like burnout, sleep issues, guilt, depression, and anxiety that causes a personal toll on their well-being. Among caregivers who reported declining health, 63% said their eating habits became worse, 51% started taking more medications, and 58% said their exercise habits worsened. The mental stress can manifest in other harmful ways as well. Many Sandwich Generation caregivers experience: 

  • Higher levels of stress hormones
  • More days sick with an infectious disease
  • Weaker immune response to influenza, or flu, vaccines
  • Slower wound healing
  • Higher levels of obesity
  • Higher risk for mental decline

Stress Releases for the Sandwich Generation 

Who’s taking care of the Sandwich Generation? Predictably, stressors surface when caring for both ends of your family, but there is hope if you’re overworked and overwhelmed. If you’re finding yourself stressed or depressed, we recommend talking with your health care provider to help you manage any tension you’re feeling. You should also try the following stress relievers to help as well: 

  • Ask for help
  • Take time for yourself
  • Hold a family meeting
  • Maintain good communication
  • Release control
  • Enjoy the moment

NWPC Supports the Sandwich Generation 

We know there’s a whole generation of people who are so busy caring for others that they forget to care for themselves, but we’re here to help. NWPC is a patient-centered medical home for anyone looking for support. We tailor our specialized care to the well-being of our patients. We’re committed to providing the very best care, education, and support. Schedule an appointment with one of our skilled Portland, Oregon physicians today! 

sandwich generation health care stats