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How to manage as part of the sandwich generation

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10 December 2021|3 min read

Key Points

  • The ‘sandwich generation’ is defined as those who are “caring for elderly parents while at the same time supporting their own children.”
  • Supporting your parents as they get older can offer a lot of benefits, but it can create some challenges too.
  • It’s OK to reach out for support, and we look at the options.


We’ve all heard of the baby boomers generation, and Generation X and Y, but raise your hand if you’ve heard of the ‘sandwich generation’?

No, it’s not a term for those of us who survived on vegemite sandwiches throughout our entire school lives. It's describing “a generation which is caring for elderly parents while at the same time supporting their own children.”

In other words, they’re ‘sandwiched’ in between the two other generations with responsibilities on either side. 

It’s those responsibilities that can be both rewarding and challenging. Looking after others, whether they are older or younger, can be exhausting if you don't look after yourself properly as well.

So we’ve got some tips for caring for your parents, whether that’s in your home with you or in their own place, as well as suggestions to help you care for yourself.

After all, you can't pour from an empty cup.

Managing caring for your parents

Whether your parents move into your home or you support them while they stay in their own home, there are lots of ways you can help them. 

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Members of the sandwich generation are raising their own children while also caring for their parents

Parents choosing to live in their own home 

Many older people prefer to stay in their own home and you can help them do this by making sure they have the right assistance in the right areas. 

This could be as simple as setting up online shopping deliveries or having any medications set up in a daily organiser or pharmacy-arranged blister packs. 

Some people find it hard to ask for help. Having regular check-ins with your parents, even if it's just on the phone, gives you the opportunity to offer your help before they need to ask for it.

If they aren’t overly tech-savvy, you or even the grandchildren can help them set up video calling so you can chat easier, or any other way to help keep them connected to the ones they love.

Parents moving in with you 

If you decide to move your parents into your own home, there will be other things to think about before you clear out the spare room for them.

Making them part of your home routine will help them feel welcome. Maybe they could be the chief bedtime story reader with the grandchildren, or preparing dinner on days you are particularly busy.

There are services that can help you to adapt your home if needed for wheelchair access or grab handles. 

You may be eligible for respite support so both you and your parents can have a break from each other. 

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Once you know exactly what taking on your parents' care will entail, you can get the right support

Support is out there if you know where to look

Once you know exactly what is needed to assist your parents, you can get the right support for everyone. 

Government websites such as www.carergateway.gov.au and www.myagedcare.gov.au have all sorts of information and advice on what support is available and how to access it. This can include:

  • home maintenance
  • nursing care
  • domestic help
  • allied health support, eg. a physiotherapist

If you are concerned about them having a trip or fall, discuss possible personal alarms they can wear so they can call for help quickly.

Your parents may also have to navigate changes to their social lives, including keeping their friendships alive. Assisted transport may be able to help with this, as building healthy friendships is still an important part of care assistance.

Check in with your local council to see what social activities they may arrange for senior citizens.

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Having your parents move in with you (or moving into their house) can be both a gift and a challenge.

Caring for yourself is important too

After caring for everyone else, you still matter. Think about what you need to look after yourself. 

  • Everyone can help. Get everyone together to create a weekly family meal plan, or make sure chores are not being all left to one person.
  • Friendships will become even more important for emotional support and mental wellbeing. If you can’t catch up in person, send a text or set a regular time for a phone call. They may be needing that emotional support too.
  • Be aware that any changes in life can put a strain on your intimate relationships. Keep the connection alive by:

There are also support systems you can access for yourself. These include services such as counselling, respite care and skills courses to help you manage everything on your plate. 

Making it work for everyone

If you’re not sure where to start, speaking with a health professional will help you figure out what care is needed, by whom, and how to access it. 

Making sure your family is looked after properly is an important responsibility. If you set things up well, helping to look after family members can be beneficial for everyone in all sorts of ways. 

Related:

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board November 2021.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.