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Sandwich Generation: How do you Decide Whose Needs Come First?

an image of a patient and her family smiling
By Claudette Forbes

Imagine inviting a dozen guests to dinner, but only having one plate to serve on. Who do you take care of first? Whose needs are most important? For most people, the answer is obvious: You need more plates.

Yet for members of the sandwich generation, this question comes up every single day. Instead of plates of food however, you’re trying to divide the time and energy of a single person amongst an entire family of needs.

The sandwich generation has a difficult task because they must balance the needs of their own children, grown or not, the needs of their parents, the needs of their significant other, and also the needs of themselves. This gets especially hard as they near retirement and must think about their own needs and wants.

Rule #1: Take Care of Yourself First

When given a safety rundown before a flight, the flight attendant instructs you that in an emergency, you need to put an oxygen mask on yourself first. Although your first instinct might be to protect your child or elderly parent first, if you pass out from lack of oxygen you won’t be able to help anyone.

This is a good rule of thumb for life. You cannot help anyone in any generation if you burn yourself out. Your retirement savings comes first, your personal health comes first, and after that you can worry about other people.

Helping the older generation

If you have a young child in your home, while also trying to help out a grandparent or parent, you know what a time struggle it can be. Should you prioritize your son’s baseball game, or your parent’s doctor appointments?

You may feel pressured on both sides because each person wanting your attention has no shame in guilting you. It is, “I helped you with all your needs as a child, now you help me!” versus, “You never do anything with me!” from your child.

It can be an impossible decision, but there is a solution. Hiring a home care assistant for your parent can help ease the burden on you and give you more time for other things.

Your parent will have someone to help them get to appointments, help prepare meals, and help them with all the other tasks associated with daily living. When you are there for them, you can spend your time with them as their son or daughter, a valuable role that tends to get lost to caregiving as time passes.

Financial aid is often available

Many government programs are available to help with the financial aspects of caregiving. One of the biggest struggles for generations caught in the middle is knowing that a caregiver will help, but knowing they can’t afford to pay for their children’s needs, their own retirement, and their parents needs as well.

Being part of the sandwich generation is difficult, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living life on your own. With a little help, you can spread the burden of being a member of the sandwich generation around. For more information on how we help family caregivers with the care of their loved one, contact Homewatch CareGivers of Woodbridge today.