The Sandwich Generation: Redefining the Modern Family

As if the baby boomer generation hasn’t been the subject of enough labeling, they’ve now also earned the title, “The Sandwich Generation” due to the phoenomenon of  a growing number of people in this demographic caring for both children and aging parents at the same time.

A recent article in San Bernadino’s Sun offers some useful insight into the Sandwich Generation and the challenges and opportunities that result from multiple generations living under the same roof. For one, most families appreciate the benefit of being able to care for an ailing parent in their home (saving on long-term care expenses), but worry they will be spending too much time together. The families exemplified in The Sun’s article were able to offer their loved ones their own living quarters, with a bedroom and bath, so ample private time was easy to come by. On the other hand, it also allowed everyone to share more quality time with parents, children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, that may not have been possible under other circumstances.

Expert Advice for Multigenerational Families

Matthew Kaplan, a Penn State Intergenerational Programs Extension Specialist who has conducted extensive research on multigenerational families, offers some advice to families facing the situation. For one, he stressed the importance of setting aside quality time for the nuclear family. For example, the Hall family discussed in the article took weekend getaways by hiring a home care agency to care for their mother. Many assisted living facilities offer respite stays, which can provide both a break from caregiving and an opportunity to strengthen the nuclear family bond.

Other tips offered by Kaplan, in cooperation with Home Instead Senior Care,  include setting ground rules and expectations at the beginning, open lines of communication, and respect for one another’s privacy.

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