How to stay sane when you’re a part of the sandwich generation

Sandwich-GenerationBeing part of the Sandwich generation means that you’re caring for ageing parents as well as having continued responsibilities for your own offspring.  As more people are living well into their 80s and 90s, our parents require care for a longer period of time. Their retirement funds need to last longer as well. Additionally, with house prices rising beyond the reach of many millennials, and rents being astronomical, kids are living at home for longer.

Complicating the issue, there is also another layer called the “club sandwich” generation, who in their 50s and 60s, are also required to provide assistance for the care of their kids’ kids… their grandchildren.

Juggling the needs of both your parents and your kids (and their kids) at the same time, as well as holding down a job can put an enormous strain on the sandwich generation, both financially and emotionally.  So where do you draw the line between your needs and the needs of others you love?

Here are a few tips to help those who may be feeling the squeeze:

  • Put your own oxygen mask on first!  Your dependents (above and below you) need you at your best, so make sure you are kind to yourself, and take care of your own physical and mental health before anything else.  Eat well, sleep well and take spontaneous breaks.
  • Don’t engage in family arguments.  When under pressure, it’s natural to look for someone to blame or to judge.  It’s not helpful and makes things harder.
  • Empower your parents. Look for opportunities to enable your parents to retain their independence.   Online grocery shopping and government provided home care services can help them to do this. Check out https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/help-home.
  • Assist but don’t control.  All decisions should be shared with your parents, that way you won’t feel the frustration of their resistance when you’re just trying to help them.
  • Keep your own life going.  Don’t give up your job to be a full time carer.  This will only breed resentment and may significantly affect your ability to fund your own retirement when the time comes.
  • Get everyone’s finances out in the open.  It’s important to know the financial position and financial goals of each generation so that budgets and financial plans can be set accordingly.
  • Take care of some paperwork.  Make sure you have in a place an enduring power of attorney over your parents, as well as a living will (instructions regarding medical procedures), as well as testamentary will.
  • Make sure dependents are covered. Consider taking out life insurance on the lives of your adult children if they are not able to afford it themselves.
  • Remember you’re not alone.  There are approximately 1.5 million other Australians who are currently in the same boat as you.  So smile, breathe deeply and keep a good sense of humour.