Caregiving and the Sandwich Generation

Caregiving and the Sandwich Generation

By Diane Cummins on February 1, 2023

What is the "sandwich generation", and why are they so important?

The population trend in the United States can be described as a growing generation of elderly adults who need help with personal care juxtaposed against a generation of spirited, young adults who are struggling to obtain independence and financial security. Who is caught in the middle of these two seemingly opposite points on the generational spectrum? You guessed it - the sandwich generation. 

The sandwich generation has become more prominent because of two trends emerging in American society. 

In less than two decades, the number of older adults are projected to outnumber youth for the first time in American history. Because of these two trends, the burdens and responsibilities of middle-aged Americans are increasing. The "sandwich generation” consists of adults who have a parent age 65 or older and are either still raising a child under 18 or providing financial support to an adult child. In a nutshell, term “sandwich generation” refers to adults who support both their aging parents and their children, whether physically, emotionally, or financially. According to a Pew Research Survey conducted in October 2021, 23% of adults are part of the sandwich generation. The most likely group of Americans to be sandwiched between their children and an aging parent are those who are in their 40s (Pew Trust Magazine, 2022). Society is also seeing more “double sandwich” individuals, which involves, for example, people in their 60s providing care to their grandchildren, thus allowing their adult children to work, as well as supporting their own parents in their 90s (Ro, 2021).


These multigenerational needs have become even more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic, as record numbers of adult children have moved back home and elderly parents have needed new forms of care. In recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic tested government resources. Additionally, higher rates of unemployment have made family support even more vital. This has resulted in heightened strain on both time and finances for the sandwich generation.


Overall, sandwiched Americans are more likely to be supporting adult children than elderly parents. This intensified during the pandemic. In July 2020, 52% of adults aged 18 to 29 were living with their parents – the highest percentage recorded since the Great Depression (Ro, 2021).  Covid-19 has had crushing effects on education, unemployment, indebtedness, and dating. Because of this, it may take longer for young adults to reach the milestones associated with gaining independence from parents. Thus, parents may need offer support to their adult children for longer, and with more complexity, than society might have imagined.


Sandwich generation caregivers spend about three hours per day on caregiving duties between their children and their parents (HumanGood, n.d.). For members of the sandwich generation, caregiving is both exhausting and expensive. Balancing the emotional, financial, and logistical aspects of multigenerational caregiving is no easy feat.


Here are some tips on managing and minimizing the stress associated with multigenerational caregiving:

1.     Prioritize self-care. Caregivers must set boundaries for themselves and for others. If the primary caregiver breaks down physically or emotionally, then they will not be able to care for anyone. Caregivers should dedicate 30 minutes at least twice per week to exercising or taking a walk and at least 15 minutes per day to reading, meditating, or some other self-care activity. Caregivers should not feel guilty for taking time to themselves, and it is okay to say “no” sometimes.


2.     Do not be afraid to ask for help. Caregivers need to be honest with themselves about their own limitations. Members of the sandwich generation, especially women, are often exhausted and in desperate need of support from others. Primary caregivers should not feel guilty about asking other family members for help with hands-on care, costs, and spending time with their aging mother or father. Unfortunately, it is not always that simple, especially for women. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the amount of unpaid, informal care that women provide to loved ones ranges from $148 billion to $188 billion annually. This level of work can quickly lead to caregiver burnout, depression, and increased medical illness. Fortunately, if caregivers receive support from others (whether formally or informally), they can take necessary time for self-care, reducing their likelihood of experiencing caregiver burnout.


3.     Stay organized. Caregivers should engage the family in a monthly meeting to review what tasks they need help with the most. Caregivers should delegate specific tasks to other family members, e.g., picking up Dad’s prescriptions or taking Mom to her doctor appointment. Caregivers should also be willing to utilize the assistance of community organizations or hired professionals if needed.




4 tips to manage sandwich generation stress: squeezed between parents and kids. (n.d.) HumanGood.


Family Caregiver Alliance. (n.d.) Women and caregiving: facts and figures.


Pew Trust Magazine. (2022, September 20). More Than Half Of Americans In Their 40s Are ‘Sandwiched’ Between An Aging Parent And Their Own Children.,survey%20conducted%20in%20October%202021.


Ro, C. (2021, January 28). Why the 'sandwich generation' is so stressed out. BBC Worklife.

Vesta, J. (2018, March 13). The graying of America: more older adults than kids by 2035. The United States Census Bureau.,add%20a%20half%20million%20centenarians.