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Thoughts for my Sandwich Generation


Caught In the Middle is Not the Same as Being Caught off Guard

images-1By Mark Friedman
As the owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore I love the fact that July is “National Sandwich Generation Month”. It speaks to me: my generation, millions of adult children who for the first time are facing a parental tsunami of sorts. While busy with careers and raising families of our own, very often miles, states, and now countries away from our parents, we are also facing enormous conflicts about how to care for aging loved ones. And, of course, living with the fear of a dreaded phone call, or perhaps one of those “OMG Visits”.
The Dreaded Phone Call & “OMG Visit”
Every day I get calls from an adult child about concerns for Mom, Dad, or a loved one. The call may come in from Miami or Milan, but the anxieties are the same: Mom seems confused, she may not be eating, hasn’t left the house in days, and her friends are calling and worried. Or, an only uncle is going in for surgery and after that, there are no plans for care in place.
Then, there is the “OMG Visit”. All year-long the kids have been counting on vacationing on the Cape with the grandparents, but arrive to find granddad forgetful, and the house in disarray. The immediate observation is things are just “not right”. These visits, which very often take place on holidays and school vacations are frightening for the Sandwich Generation. That’s why I call them the “Oh My God” visits. Because it is shockingly apparent that Mom or Dad needs help, and it’s time to mobilize. Mobilize what? Mobilize how?
The fact is our parents our living longer than ever and through the grace of modern medicine, managing more complex health issues along the way.
I am part of this Sandwich Generation, which cuts a substantial swath of adults as young as 40 and as old as 70.
The Sandwichers are becoming primary caregivers as well as consumers of all-things senior living. Like their parents, they need to understand where to turn for help, how to think about costs associated with living and lifestyle choices, and how to be an educated consumer.
 The Sandwichers as Caregivers
According to AARP, 85-90% of Seniors want to remain living in their home even as their needs for assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) increase. Of elders receiving care, 85% reside in their own home, or that of a loved one.
What Does a Family Caregiver Profile Look Like?

  • 4 million Americans (21% of the adult population) act as caregivers.
  • Average caregiver’s age is 46 years old. 59% are employed.
  • The primary family caregiver (usually the oldest daughter, who is also working) spends an average of 20 hours per week caring for an elderly parent.
  • 40% of caregivers who work full-time report missing work on a regular basis due to the health needs of an elderly loved one.
  • 54% of working caregivers say they were unprepared for schedule juggling.
  • 80% of working caregivers report emotional strain.
  • Caregivers are twice as likely to report physical and mental health complications.
  • 50% of working caregivers report financial strain from providing care for aging parents.

My nurses counsel Sandwichers embarking on the role as primary caregiver to an aging parent or loved one. They tell them they are embarking on the job of their lifetime. Will they ever be fully prepared for it? Absolutely not.
Today, this is a new and incredibly critical role in our aging ecosystem. At Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore, we provide supportive family training for general navigation, and caregiving for Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Recovery Care and other critical needs on the journey of aging.
We encourage adult children to understand both the beauty, and, the enormity of their undertaking:

  • How will they split time between children/family and their elder loved one?
  • How much time is too much time in their care-giving role?
  • How will they find time for their marriage?
  • How will they find time for themselves?
  • How will they find resources they need for themselves and their loved one?
  • How will they combat feelings of isolation?
  • How can they handle potential guilt for not having enough time to accomplish all that they “should” be doing?
  • What’s the “what if” scenario and back-up game plan should things change suddenly?

Connections, Community, Customization
Much of the work we do at Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore is about connections: connecting seniors and families to resources. The reason we do this is the very theme of this article, because no senior, or Sandwicher, should be caught off guard when it comes to getting great and reliable care.
We are a fixture in the 75 communities we serve clients. It is important we know the great elder law attorneys and geriatric care managers, as well as our way around the local senior centers, Councils on Aging, and short-term rehab centers.
We can be on the scene establishing and overseeing these valuable connections for seniors, in turn providing peace of mind for Sandwichers living away from loved ones, or not always around should a crisis arise.
Because we have a client-centered approach to care, we begin working with every senior by focusing on what they can do, respecting what they are unable to do, and customizing a plan of care to support and respond to what they want to do. We know from experience this is a win-win for everyone involved.
Complex Care Should Not Be Complicated to Get
As a member of the Sandwich Generation, I have friends caring for parents who have complex diagnoses of Parkinson’s or living on the Dementia spectrum. Thanks to great therapies and extraordinary caregiving, there are new and exciting treatments for both.
Between our exclusive partnership with the Michael J.  Fox Foundation and our work with the John Hopkins Center for Movement Disorder, our specialized Parkinson’s Care is helping families navigate this disease with life-changing strategies. We understand that a Parkinson’s diagnosis is a family affair, but we do not make it complicated to get care-giving that is personal and powerful.
Facing a move from home, Sandwicher’s are the first generation that finds itself navigating new community forces called Assisted Livings, CCRC’s (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), LTC’s (Long Term Care) and other lifestyle options. This is another world that requires some careful piloting as the options can be confusing, conflicting, expensive, and overwhelming.
This is a world we know well and can help Sandwicher’s navigate it with success.
Creating a Surefooted Sandwich Generation
My Sandwich Generation knows the enormity of what lies ahead. The importance of being informed and prepared is essential. Understanding options, access, and providers is critical, but so is having a clear definition of what excellence means for us and our families.
The well-being of a senior requires preparation and decision-making around medical, legal, financial, geographic, and emotional issues. If you and your siblings are ready or, needs help to figure out how to get ready, to navigate this landscape, then Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore is ready to support your journey.
As a member of the Sandwich Generation myself, I have skin in this game. It is why I insist that our care and support is super easy to get.  It is also why we developed a full and comprehensive suite of more than 50 programs and services that can be accessed at a moment’s notice.
Because, if I’m asking my Sandwich Generation to step up and step in, I need to make sure I’ve done my part by making sure you have sound footing.
In the coming months I will be covering topics that include: Finding Resources: The Difference Between Experience and Expertise, Respite Alternatives for Stressed Out Caregivers, How to Stay Informed and Prepared, Data vs Information: How to Make Smart Decisions.
You can contact me at: MFriedman@SeniorHelpersBoston.com
image001About Mark Friedman: Mark Friedman is the Owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore. Passionate about seniors and healthcare, the goal of his agency is to set a new standard in home care in Massachusetts. First by delivering an exceptional home care experience in a combination of highly trained and high-touch caregivers. And secondly by becoming a significant connection for elders to resources and services in the 100 communities his company serves. www.SeniorHelpers.com/SouthShoreMA    Please Call: 781.421.3123
Reprinted from the August edition of the South Shore Senior News