The Sandwich Generation – pressure to care for young and old

Intro: Society is changing, we have an ageing population and finding care for elderly loved ones is difficult. Where possible, family do try to keep loved ones at home but with the added pressure of looking after young family members it can all get a bit too much. We take a look at the changing dynamics with relatives looking after both young and old loved ones and discuss what the solution is. 

The Sandwich Generation – pressure to care for young and old

Earlier this year, the Office of National Statistics reported that there were 1.3 million people who had dual responsibility for an elderly relative as well as their own children. Referred to as the sandwich generation, the ONS highlighted that these carers were struggling, with high incidences of mental health and financial strain. The increase in numbers of people in this group has been attributed to people living longer and women having children a lot later on, so that at age 40-50, a parent is looking after one of their parents as well as their own son or daughter (s). The data also shows that the sandwich generation includes more women than men, approximately 62%. Alongside this group of carers, there is also a growing number of grandparents who are taking on twin responsibility for caring for elderly relatives and supporting their own children with care of grandchildren. This group, aged 60+, either working or retired, co-ordinate their daily activity to support loved ones, often at personal cost to themselves. 

What do elderly people want?

According to the Better At Home Report (2019), a staggering 97% of people would not want to go into residential/nursing care if they were taken ill and could not cope at home on their own. It is no surprise then that family members will do their best to support wishes of loved ones and care for them to allow them to stay at home for as long as possible. The increasing stories of unsafe and poor care in residential settings does not help either, nor does a complex health and social care system, which when people are at crisis point seems unsurmountable. 

Quality of life for everyone

Although carers with dual responsibility do what they do because of their relationships with loved ones, it does mean they are at increased risk of a poor quality of life for themselves. The ONS report confirmed that the sandwich generation are more likely to be dissatisfied with their life, in large because of the pressure and work involved in juggling multiple responsibilities. Carers worry that in trying to help those around them they are neglecting one group over another and feel like they should be doing more. Some carers also work alongside their caring duties, but unfortunately many have to give up work as they can no longer manage. Carers UK estimates that 2 million people have been forced to leave work as a result of their caring role, creating negative consequences for their financial, professional and personal wellbeing. With their main focus being on the people they are supporting, carers often neglect themselves, leading to them developing their own set of health problems. 

Does formal care offer enough support?

Carers who have support from formal care services, recognise that although they do what they can, it doesn’t always make their job easier, in fact in some situations it adds to their overall stress of it all, particularly when formal caring arrangements break down or doesn’t support as planned or when the older person's health deteriorates and the care system has to be navigated all over again. These issues are further compounded if the older person you are caring for does not live with you i.e. you are also undertaking a significant amount of travel. What is the solution? How can 'time poor' stressed carers that want to do the best for their loved ones ensure that they look after themselves but also have peace of mind that their older relative is able to stay at home and cared for in a way you would want? 

What’s the solution?

Live in care (also referred to as in home care) could help to alleviate some of the stresses felt by sandwich carers. A live in carer comes to live with the person who needs caring and is available to support 24/7 on an one to one basis. Having a live in carer would enable family carers to continue to maintain their own lives in a way they were not able to before as well as contributing to the care and support themselves. The live in carer allows family members to retain the essence of their relationships with each other, rather it being tinged with guilt, stress and burden. 

Appointing a live in carer can allow family carers to support their own children without worrying that their older relative is suffering as a result. If the informal carer and children live with the older person, this can be added benefit as you are able to see first-hand how care is being provided. Having just one or two carers looking after your loved one can mean that families are able to develop good relationships with them, as well as the older person having another person to interact with, someone who will get to know them just as well as their loved ones do.

A live in carer can help to bring some much needed fun into the daily routine for everyone; family carers can enjoy taking trips with their loved ones without the pressure of having to provide personal care. It also helps children to see their parents enjoying quality time with their parents rather than always worrying and rushing around. Intergenerational engagement is beneficial to both parties, having a live in carer allows valued and much needed grandparent and grandchild relationships to flourish. 

Looking after elderly relatives and young children is a huge undertaking, especially when other support networks are not available or have diminished. Live in care helps families to find a balance between their twin caring responsibilities as well being able to retain quality of life for themselves. Find out more at the Live In care Hub (www.liveincarehub.co.uk).