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Study Shows 'Sandwich Generation' Women Don't Know Where to Go For Help

Stressed out middle-aged woman.
A study of social workers who provide services to “sandwich generation’’ women – those between the ages of 35 and 54 – found that nearly half say they delay getting help because they feel they should be able to shoulder caregiving responsibilities on their own.

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It’s a three-way time pinch that leaves some mothers exhausted and feeling helpless: They have to work outside the home and take care of children and elderly parents. That’s when it’s time to call in reinforcements.

Q. I’m the mother of three teenagers who is working full time and trying to help care for my 80-year-old parents. I’m near the end of my rope. What can I do?

Know that you’re not alone. A study of social workers who provide services to sandwich generation women — those between the ages of 35 and 54 — found that nearly half say they delay getting help because they feel they should be able to shoulder caregiving responsibilities on their own.

Commissioned by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the report, “Not Ready for Prime Time: The Needs of Sandwich Generation Women, A National Survey of Social Workers” explores the challenges faced by some 42 million American women who are sandwiched by the needs of their own children and their aging relatives.

Of the more than 1,400 social workers surveyed, the majority reported that sandwich generation women are not prepared for many aspects of their aging relatives’ care. Of the sandwich generation women who participated in a journaling project that was part of the study, nearly 24 percent say they didn’t know who to ask for help with day-to-day caregiving responsibilities.

“As our society’s demographics shift, older women will increasingly find themselves shouldering heavier caregiving burdens, but they don't have to do it alone,” said Pat Volland, director of NYAM’s Social Work Leadership Institute. “Unfortunately, there are barriers to seeking help because women think they should be self-reliant and able to handle it all. And they often don’t know that health professionals like social workers can help with daily stresses.”

Personal and home care aides, like those employed by the local Home Instead® office, also are an option. Home Instead CAREGiversSM are screened, trained, bonded and insured. They can be hired for as little as three hours and up to 24 hours to provide companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping. These are many of the tasks that you probably are having trouble fitting into your schedule.

What’s even better is that home care aides are often seniors themselves who can relate to the interests and lifestyles of your parents.

Last revised: December 15, 2011

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. October 9, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Posted by Anne

    I'm 47 with a 5 yo and husband four hours away from my parents. My 95 has had health issues requiring brain surgery and while he's made a miraculous recovery, he keeps having setbacks. My 91 yo mother has arthritis everywhere and has been driving herself to and from the hospital and rehab for the last month. My sibs and i arranged for an aid which is working out great. She is alone at nights when my sibs cannot get out from their jobs but they do what they can during the week as they live closer. My sister's husband now has cancer so my brother and I will do what we can. I'm having terrible guilt not being able to do more there but my daughter needs me/a routine and my husband cannot jeopardize his job. Ideally I'd move if it were me but not an option. I am doing what I can but I'm never at peace. Trying to find wisdom and energy too.


  2. October 23, 2014 at 12:09 am | Posted by mitzi young

    Am 53 and an only child my 85 Alzheimer's mom lives with us am her caregiver as well as my 3 yr old grandson at lease three days a week for him its so hard mostly during the evenings when she starts sundowning.


  3. August 7, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted by Vicki Morris

    Whats really sad is when you have a sister that is so consumed with selfishness that she won't help! She doesn't even visit. I ask for a break and she got butthurt! So I told her don;t worry about me ever calling you again, not even when Dad dies!


  4. August 6, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Posted by Heidi Bales

    I've been taking care of my parents for the last 5 1/2 years and started a blog in order to help deal with the stress, but I cannot write for awhile because I am so stressed. I call it "If this is the sandwich generation, does that make me a meatball?"


  5. November 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Posted by Max Wallack

    I believe it is important for children to understand Alzheimer's disease so they can still interact lovingly with family members who have this disease. I am a 17 year old college junior, Alzheimer's researcher, and Alzheimer's advocate.I grew up as a caregiver to my great grandmother who had Alzheimer's disease. After her death, I founded a nonprofit organization that has distributed over 26,000 puzzles to Alzheimer's facilities. Recently, the book I coauthored explaining Alzheimer's disease to children became available on Amazon.My hope was to provide some helpful coping mechanisms to the many children dealing with Alzheimer's disease among their family members. 50 percent of the profits from this book will go to Alzheimer's causes. I think this book could help a lot of children and families. It has received all outstanding reviews. "Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear in Refrigerator? A Book Explaining Alzheimer's Disease to Children."


  6. November 6, 2013 at 7:02 am | Posted by Sherry

    Isn't there a thing where you can apply for financial help for being a caregiver? someone told me this?


  7. November 6, 2013 at 3:19 am | Posted by Denise Peltz

    This situation describes me exactly. I'm 53 and have 2 teenagers. I care for my 93 year old mom that has dementia and congestive heart failure. No one can explain or understand the levels of complexities you are faced with daily in this situation. For me it's hard to trust anyone with her care or that of my children. There are many days that I ask God for strength understanding and endurance. I'm not sure what the solution is but it is comforting to know there are others in the same situation.


  8. November 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Posted by cindy

    If you are taking care of your parents odds are there is no money for alternative care or you would of hired it. The truth is there is no help, Lesson learned is we better prepare our own lives so as not to leave such a mess for our own kids. Commerical residental care homes cost anywhere between 4000.00 and 8000.00 dollars. In home care is about 18.00 an hour. good luck to all who can afford to stay home and help there parents i for one cannot. its an awful situation. The people in jail get better care than our elderly.


  9. November 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Posted by Sarah

    At the end of your article you talk about hiring a home aide from a local company. What you don't mention is that can run into quite a bit of money, especially if the loved one you care for has no insurance or very little. Are there any resources for those that can't afford to hire someone? I speak from experience on this, my elderly Mother lives with me and I am also a single Mom raising a teenager. I work part-time so I have some time free for my teen and my Mothers appts. My Mom has her social security but nothing else for income. While I get some help from a brother, most in the family do not or cannot help with our Mother. The budget to "hire" someone to come in and help with caregiving is zero. I know there are many in my situation and many seniors that don't have the money to "hire" an aide. I would love to see something open up for people in the same spot I am in, and the seniors that can't afford to hire a company. Something that works for them. Thank you for posting resources and the help that you do.


  10. March 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Posted by Lesley

    I believe this will become a bigger issue as time goes by. We will definitely see the "sandwich generation" grow. We have to let, not just wives, but husbands know of the resources that are available to them. And of course we can't forget the children, as this can be quite the adjustment for them, it will be like timesharing with parents. As a person without these issues, you can assist and offer help to the "sandwich generation" families.


  11. January 27, 2012 at 12:27 am | Posted by Dale Smith

    Why are you focusing on only women acting as caregivers? What about the husbands? What about the sons and son-in-laws who are equally pressured by taking care of aging parents, grandparents and inlaws. If our wives are burdened, then we are equally burdened. I can say from experience that a daughter will work herself right into the ground while her aging parent(s) becomes more and more demanding, and her children and marriage will suffer because of it. Lets treat this as a family issue please.


    • January 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      You're right, Dale, this is a family issue. The consequences of stress from being a caregiver has an enormous impact on both genders. We will certainly keep this in mind as we present more information. Cat Koehler Social Media Advocate Home Instead


  12. January 16, 2012 at 10:19 am | Posted by Cheryl DeLong

    My mother had a stroke in 2009 and thankfully I had knowledge of the community resources that are available to seniors otherwise I would have not known where to turn for help. I personally think that alot more can be done to assist women from my generation balance the needs of their own families with the needs of an aging parent. Everyone involved in the healthcare industry should do their part to reach out to people who might need support because sometimes pride gets in the way and even mistrust of the system can hamper getting needed services.


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