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Published on April 07, 2015

Are You a Member of the ‘Sandwich Generation’?

SIOUX FALLS (April 7, 2015) – If the generations in your family were like a sandwich, where would you find yourself? Women in their middle years often find themselves sandwiched between their own children and their aging parents. And that’s not always an easy place to be.

“Women in the sandwich generation have demands from both sides,” said Jean Lageson, MD, Internal Medicine specialist with Avera Medical Group Internal Medicine.

For many years in a family’s life, grandparents often provide lots of help and support to young parents. Yet there’s a point when roles are reversed, and adult children are called upon to “parent” and care for their own parents.

For the younger generation, you’re helping with homework; cooking, cleaning and doing laundry; driving to and from music lessons; and attending sports events.

For the older generation, you’re managing medications, running errands, making doctor’s appointments, overseeing finances, or arranging for long-term care.  On top of this, you’re working full time, and there’s very little “me” time or “couple time” with your husband.

Plus, you might be at the age when you’re experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, such as mood fluctuations, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, or the physical discomfort of hot flashes.

“You’re getting tugged from each side. All of these demands consume time and energy,” Dr. Lageson said.

Hiedi Roberts of Sioux Falls finds herself within the sandwich, as she raises her 16-year-old daughter and helps cares for her aging parents. She also works full time as an outpatient therapist with Avera Behavioral Health Services.

“The hardest thing is dealing with the unexpected. You’re always worried that this is the moment when things will turn for the worse,” Hiedi said. “There’s not an instruction book on how to do this. You feel very vulnerable asking for help – it’s just very humbling.”

For members of the sandwich generation, Dr. Lageson and Hiedi recommend the following tips:

Don’t try to do it all yourself.

Women tend to feel guilty, and worried that they might let their family down. Yet friends, neighbors, fellow church members and relatives might not know what they can do to help until they’re asked. Identify specific things that others can do – like go to your son’s soccer practice, or sit for an hour with Mom or Dad while you go shopping.

Take time for yourself.

You need life-giving resources like a healthy diet, exercise, plenty of sleep, and friendships to build yourself up, before you can give to others. “There’s a reason why on airplanes they ask you to put on your oxygen mask first in case of emergency,” Dr. Lageson said.

Don’t neglect your own health.

In the midst of making appointments for your kids’ sports physicals or your parents’ follow-up exams, don’t forego your own preventive care and screenings.  Preventive care allows your provider to identify and treat minor health issues before they become major.

If you feel stressed, overwhelmed or depressed, seek help.

The demands upon the sandwich generation might contribute to mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Your provider might recommend medications and/or counseling to help you learn ways to better cope with your situation.

Everyone has limits, including members of the sandwich generation. “It’s important to recognize this and ask for help. You can’t magically create more than 24 hours in a day,” Dr. Lageson said.

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