adoption of the National Family Caregiver Support
Program in late 2000, there have been numerous news
articles and points of interests written about the
family caregiver and their many different roles within
the family and the community. Roughly, it is estimated
that American families provide 80 to 90 percent of all
in-home long term care services for their aging family
members, disabled adult children and other loved ones.
These services may include assistance with activities of
daily living (ADL’s), medical services coordination,
medical supervision, administration of medications and
assistance with financial, legal, spiritual and
emotional concerns. These services are priceless
and the family caregivers that provide them often go
unrecognized and over utilized which can lead to great
stress for the family caregiver. In contrast, if
these same services were to be provided by our national
health care system, it would be estimated at
approximately 250 billion dollars per year.
Recently, and of
particular interest, there is a new buzz around a subset
of caregivers known as the “Sandwich Generation”.
These are caregivers who find themselves squeezed in
between caring for younger loved ones such as children,
and their elder parents or other elder family members.
While the Sandwich Generation is not a new form of
family caregiving, these caregivers are receiving a long
overdue peaking of interest within American society.
typical American Sandwich Generation Caregiver is in her
mid-forties, married, employed and cares for her family
and an elderly parent, usually her mother. With this
said, it is important to note that there are more and
more men that find themselves in a caregiving role and
even squeezed in between the generations. It is
also important to note that there is an ever-growing
segment of family and sandwich generation caregivers
that live in rural communities. Unlike caregivers living
in urban and industrial areas, rural caregivers may find
themselves removed from readily available and
professionally organized supportive services and care
networks. They may also find themselves not only
carrying the normal burdens that are associated with
providing care for a loved one, but also they may be
faced with challenges such as geographic barriers to
resources and isolation from other caregivers, family
members or informal supports. This lack of service
availability, care networks, and isolation from other
caregivers and family members can add to caregiver
stress, burnout, and depression.
role of being a caregiver spreads across all racial,
gender, age and ethnic boundaries. Some of the
common stressors that affect both urban and rural
sandwich generation caregivers are:
How do I
split my time between my children/family and my
elder loved one?
How much of
my time is too much time in each caregiving role?
How do you
find the time for my marriage?
How do you
find the time for myself?
How do I keep
the generational peace between my kids and my elder
How do I find
the resources that I need for my self and my loved
How do I
combat my feelings of isolation?
and more Guilt for not having enough time to
accomplish all that “should” be doing.
To counter act
some of these stressors, here are some caregiver tips
that may help sandwich generation caregivers along the
At this meeting, discuss the many
different caregiving tasks that need to be accomplished
each day or week. Set a task list for family
members to complete each day/week. Set mutual
expectations of how the many tasks of caregiving will be
accomplished. Caregiving is often a one-person
show but it does not need to be if you have family
support. The family meeting also allows for family
members to participate and share in the valuable gift of
caregiving and this can be very rewarding.
Encourage children and elders to
communicate with one another. During the family
meeting, make sure that all family members have a chance
to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
Make a point of picking up the
telephone and spending time calling resources such as
your local Area Agency on Aging, a hospital social
worker, a physician or church. The Internet can also be
a wonder resource finding tool. Never be afraid to
ask for assistance when you need to, you may be
surprised at who has been waiting to help you.
To Care For Yourself
Too often I meet caregivers who are
run down and even sick because they have not taken time
to care for themselves. Sure, no one can take care
of your loved ones as well as you do but you must care
for yourself if you want to continue to care for your
loved one. This is not an act of selfishness, it
is actually an act of great giving.
Take time every
day to “check-in” with yourself, even if it is only 10
minutes. This should be your protected time.
Enjoy this time by reading, listening to music,
exercising or whatever you like to do.
laugh at the funny things in life.
Take time to
be “in” your marriage.
your body. If your body is telling you to slow down,
or that something is not right, seek medical advice.
Too often we do not listen to our bodies no matter
how loudly they may be talking to us.
and caregiving situation is unique but there are always
common factors which bridge these situations and
caregivers together. It is easy to become lost in
the caregiving that you are providing but remember that
support can come from many different sources and in many
different ways. For those of you who
are squeezed in the sandwich generation please know that
you are not alone and that assistance is often only a
telephone call or internet site away. Your local Family
Caregiver Support Program is here to help you.
Locator/Area Agencies on Aging Telephone Numbers and the
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging Website:
Elder Locator/Area Agencies on Aging
Elder Locator/Florida Area Agencies on Aging
Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Kathleen Bogolea is the Director
for the Family Caregiver Support Program, which is in
partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Previously, Ms. Bogolea was the coordinator for the
Family Caregiver Support Program at the Mid-Florida Area
Agency on Aging. She also worked for the Texas
Department of Human Services in Contract Management,
Case Management Supervision and Case Management
Services. Ms. Bogolea has a Masters of Human Services
from St. Edwards University in Austin Texas.
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