Sandwich Generation
Facing Depression, Burnout and Isolation

No one feels pulled in more directions than the “sandwich generation,” as they’re known.

What is the sandwich generation? “It’s middle-aged adults who are caring for or, at the same time, supporting their parents who are aging and still raising children,” says Kathy Voss, certified caregiving consultant with Family Service Rochester. “They’re kind of sandwiched between caregiving roles.”

It’s very taxing to care for one generation, much less two, Voss adds. “We see a ton of caregiver burnout when just caring for children or aging parents,” she explains. “When you double it…”

“There’s a lot of emotional stress and it’s also very financially taxing,” she continues. “It can also be downright physically taxing if you need to move physically declining parents. And it brings up a lot of difficult emotions. You’re switching roles. You’re parenting your parents, and you’re still parenting your children. So your responsibility is really great and can be very taxing.”

Isolation and depression can set in for these sandwich gen caregivers. What’s more, guilt crops up. “You have this moral responsibility, especially with some cultures, it’s the cultural norm to take care of everyone,” Voss says. “A lot of stress and depression comes from the guilt that you need to be this person taking care of everyone. You don’t want to fail your parents, and you don’t want to fail your children, but you only have so much bandwidth of resources.”

It’s common for those within the sandwich generation to lose touch with their social networks, as they simply don’t have the capacity to maintain friendships. And some in the sandwich generation even report being passed up for work promotions because they “can’t do anything above and beyond what they need to do at work,” Voss explains.

“They feel like their professional life suffers,” she says. “They’re status quo at work because of the demands placed on them at home. It hurts professionally.”

Marriages are also stressed; a couple may divide and conquer, saying “you take the kids, I’ll take Mom,” but that’s tough on a marriage, Voss adds.

As issues facing the sandwich generation crop up, providers are trying to rally and offer support. There are support services, but Voss says cultural changes need to take place so caregivers recognize it’s OK to ask for help.

“Their well-being depends on it,” she emphasizes.

She recommends that caregivers seek out a support group, finding understanding and solace among those who understand. There are several available in Rochester. 

Family Service Rochester offers services for those over 65 years of age and/or disabled to help people stay in their homes and be as safe as possible. As part of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, they do housekeeping, chores, transportation, lawn care and snow removal, among other duties.

They also offer Caregiver Support Services and Caregiver Respite. “Our services allow people to free up time to focus on self-care,” she says, “and nurturing relationships with those they’re caring for. It’s just so necessary. It’s really hard to strike that balance because we want to keep people at home, but it’s tough to handle all of it.” :: 

About Author

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Renee is a mom of two teenagers and a freelance writer in Rochester. She has no at-home office but dreams of one day having one.

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