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Sandwiched in? Take care of yourself, seek alternatives, help

An increasing number of people are caring simultaneously for their children and their elderly parents.

An increasing number of people are caring simultaneously for their children and their elderly parents.

A 2013 Pew Foundation survey found that half of middle-aged American adults have aging parents and are raising a young child or supporting a young adult. This group is known as the “sandwich generation.”

This “sandwiching” has its roots in several societal factors.

First, Americans are living longer than ever because of better health care, nutrition and medical technology.

Secondly, people are having children later in life, with the average age of American women having their first child reaching a record high of 26 in 2013, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Finally, studies have found that, because of a challenging economic environment and record levels of student loan debt, nearly 56 percent of millennials receive some kind of financial assistance from their parents.

Most of the responsibilities of taking care of children and elderly parents tend to fall on the woman of the household, according to research.

A study by the National Alliance of Caregiving found that 66 percent of caregivers in American households are women. According to The National Caregivers Library, even when men are involved, “it’s the women who tend to do the most challenging tasks related to caregiving.”

Caregivers, mostly women, experience emotional implications from the sandwich generation phenomenon. They feel stressed, burned out and overwhelmed as they struggle to simultaneously deal with their careers, family and elder care.

Often, they have to contend with competing priorities regarding the allocation of limited emotional and physical resources. For example, a caregiver may struggle with the decision of whether she attends her daughter’s play or her mother’s doctor’s appointment.

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