Creating a healthy sandwich (generation)

Healthy lunch
Healthy lunch (Photo credit: A30_Tsitika)

Not that long ago, people got married, raised a family, the kids got married and lived near by. When the parents got older, family assisted them, maybe moved in with them or had them move in with them. As society has become more transient and more couples are both employed outside the home, this story is decreasing in frequency.

In other words, being a sandwich generation is nothing new. Rather, changes in society have modified that sandwich.

July is Sandwich Generation Month. The purpose is to increase awareness and support for caregivers who are sandwiched.

Everyone needs to be informed as most of us will become part or know someone in a sandwich generation situation. I have a teenager and a father in his late 70’s. While Dad is healthy, there is a chance at some point he will require assistance. My siblings and I need to know his preferences. We are lucky. He has shared many of his desires with us over the years.

Having worked over 20 years in various senior living communities, I have observed the challenges of the sandwiched generations. Based upon these personal and professional observations, here is what you need to know.

First let me applaud those living in this situation. Yours is a complicated road. It does have the upside of creating memories.

Second, remember to care for yourself. That means asking for assistance when you needed. It means searching out the networks in your community. It can mean finding respite care from time to time so you can get away.

Third, get to know your neighbors. Talk with them. Watch out for each other. Sometimes we all need a hand whether we are in a sandwich generation situation, have health issues, or a young professional. Being in community is part of good health. We can each make a difference in the lives of others.

Fourth, plan for the future. There are a lot of baby boomers entering the retirement arena. They and all of us need to share in writing and verbalize our desires for our later years. If you don’t tell someone that you  do not  want heroic measure no matter what, they may not make that choice on your behalf., Have the paperwork in place for health care and financial issues. Draw up a basic will. You can make changes across the years.

Remember, most of us will become part or know someone in a sandwich generation situation. Together we can create a healthy sandwich generation situation. Decide now on one step you can take. Share it in the comments below.

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  • Allison Andrews, PsyD

    Thank you for these very helpful reminders. I especially like the reminder about talking about heroic end of life measures and our wishes related to them. I think these are conversations that people tend to avoid, but they are so helpful as when family has to make decisions that can end the life of a person they love.
    Allison Andrews, PsyD recently posted..The Ins and Outs of Parenting Children with Special NeedsMy Profile

    • JoAnn Jordan

      Conversations about the end of life are frequently addressed issues on #Eldercarechat. The challenge is making them friendly and not depressing. But, having them can greatly decrease stress at the time those decisions need to be made.

  • Rachelle Norman

    I think asking for help and taking time for ourselves is so hard. I think many people convince themselves that we’re “supposed” to be able to take care of kids and parents at the same time – we forget that societies have not always been structured in single-family units. We all need to help each other out – friends, neighbors, and families.
    Rachelle Norman recently posted..Forgiving ForgetfulnessMy Profile

    • JoAnn Jordan

      What one thing do you think would help us change the “supposed to” of caring?

  • Ann Becker-Schutte


    I appreciated all of your points–they feel useful whether you are currently dealing with “sandwich” issues or not. I know that in the #EOLchat, we focus on how to improve conversations about end of life wishes. The mantra there is “talk early and talk often.”

    Ann Becker-Schutte recently posted..Coping with The Daily Grind: Challenges of Chronic IllnessMy Profile

    • JoAnn Jordan

      Great mantra! Thanks for sharing it, Ann.

  • kevin@tijuanadentistsinmexico

    Thanks for sharing your own personally observations, and you seem to have hit it right on. I also agree that being in a community is part of good health, and helping one another shouldn’t be viewed as an oddity but more the norm just like it was years ago and in some places still is today. Those places now are few and far between though.

    • JoAnn Jordan

      We can hope this does return to being a more common occurrence. And that the people making these choices will have community and employment support in doing so.