How to Support the “Sandwich Generation”

“The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else.” – Carson McCullers

In recent months, I have been going through a personal journey with my mom being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. My mom lives in a different state, so I’ve been trying to help where I can from afar.

In speaking with the Spectrum team, I was honest about the challenges I have been experiencing, trying to be a mom to two young children, supporting my mom with her recent diagnosis and work. Our Founder and President, Sarah Happel, listened intently and asked a beautiful question, “how can we help?”

As I thought of ways the team could support me, I began to research my current state, which I now know is described as the “sandwich generation.”

According to a BetterUp article, the sandwich generation is someone who’s “children are either still under 18 and need support, or they are over 18 but still require significant help from their parents. At the same time, their own parents or other relatives are growing older and losing their autonomy. The person in charge of caregiving in this situation gets squeezed between two generations that need their support.”

The sandwich generation is typically the middle-aged population, ages 40-59. “Seven in 10 Americans with at least one living parent say they expect to help their aging parents regularly in the future, according to a recent Fortune survey conducted by the Harris Poll. That sentiment jumps to 88% among millennials.” (Fortune)

“If companies want to retain their staff, if they want workers to be themselves at work and be able to fully contribute, then they’ll need to have flexible policies and find ways to take care of their employees, Lewis-Kulin says.”  (Fortune)

So, when I think of how I could use support from my team members in this situation, this is what comes to mind:

  • Ask questions – When connecting with your team members who are in the sandwich generation, ask them how they are doing? How are their family members? Take interest in what they have going on outside of work.
  • Listen – When your team members are sharing their struggles, listen vs. providing advice or sharing your experience. Although it’s nice to relate, sometimes listening is all someone needs to feel seen.
  • Be patient and flexible – Give your employees grace as they are trying to be everything for everyone. Show compassion and understanding as they navigate their competing commitments.

Organizations cannot change the federal and state support provided to seniors, but they can change how they support their employees who have aging parents. Just like many companies have a parental leave policy, there needs to be resources when being a caregiver.

“In June, Hilton launched its Care for All hub, which offers information and support for caregivers of both the young and old. Hilton also partnered with Wellthy to help employees connect with care support and logistics, including finding in-home aides, handling a move into an assisted living facility, as well as locating babysitters and childcare providers.” (Fortune) What a refreshing concept to support your employees.

At the end of the day, the sandwich generation is something many will experience, but there can be comfort in knowing you have support from your employer.

Here are articles we found helpful on the topic:
The Agony of Putting Your Life on Hold to Care for Your Parents
The Sandwich Generation is Changing. The Stress Remains.
The Sandwich Generation – Rising Financial Burdens for Middle-Aged Americans

Katie Richard
Learning & Development Manager