The “sandwich generation” is a term used to describe the generation caring for children and parents. It can also be applied to those caring for grandchildren and parents, or children and grandchildren.
Basically those with caregiving responsibilities for someone in a generation older and one younger than themselves. The caregiver is sandwiched between care needing generations.
More baby boomers are finding themselves in this predicament. Finding themselves in the role of caregiver to elderly parents.
When her sister died unexpectedly, Linda became caregiver for their parents, Joyce and Tom.
Joyce and Tom lived in Oregon, and Linda traveled there from Pennsylvania to find housing arrangements for them. And quickly learned she was not prepared for their condition.
Linda thought Joyce and Tom could be in an apartment, not realizing Joyce was no longer able to care for herself. Linda’s infrequent visits had not prepared her for Joyce needing additional support and care.
When stepping into the role of caregiver, it’s different than what you did before. Linda’s sister had been the primary caregiver, and the switch came quickly and unexpectedly for Linda.
What are some of the challenges facing a long distance caregiver to elderly parents?
- Caring across vast distances. It can be hard to drop everything when you feel you need to see what’s going on yourself. Or when your elderly parent unexpectedly needs you.
- Not seeing daily changes. While it can be difficult to watch someone you love slowly deteriorate, it can also be difficult when you are not aware of changes, like Linda found. Guilt can set in for missing something the elderly parent or parents did not share or wanted to hide.
- Being confident that your elderly parents are cared for and their needs are met. This can be a concern because you may need to trust someone else to take your parent to appointments, and to see she eats and more.
Did you know that about 10,000 Baby Boomers a day are turning 65?
If they haven’t experienced being a caregiver to elderly parents before, many will now or in the near future.
In 2009, there were an estimated 78 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. And an estimated 42.1 million people in the U.S. were unpaid caregivers for someone 50 years or older, although not all unpaid caregivers were Baby Boomers.
So what’s the first step in any caregiving – long distance or otherwise?
The first thing Linda recognized was that being a caregiver to elderly parents is different than being a daughter – or any role she had had before. She stepped into the role.
Today she says until she recognized she was no longer “just” a daughter, it was impossible to become an effective caregiver to elderly parents.
And she’s right.
A is for accepting and acknowledging you are a caregiver. And this “A” is the first one in “A HEART PLAN” because it IS so important to effective caregiving. “A HEART PLAN” gives you a road map for going from barely surviving to thriving in caregiving.
Click here to download your own copy of “A HEART PLAN” or go to
To your thriving in caregiving,
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Founder, www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com and www.TheKnittingYarn.com
Ambassador of Elder Care at www.HowToLiveOnPurpose.com
P.S. Raise awareness about caregivers’ needs by voting for Caregiving With Purpose in Healthline’s Best Blog Contest. Caregiving With Purpose was honored by the editors with a nomination for best Health Blog of 2012.
You can vote for the same blog daily at www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com/vote. The contest runs through Feb 15, 2013.