‘Sandwich generation’ makes care a priority, but at what cost?

As relatives age, the "sandwich generation" bears the burden. Credit: Colourbox
As relatives age, the “sandwich generation” bears the burden.
Credit: Colourbox

With life expectancy on the rise and baby boomers becoming of a certain age, the U.S. population is facing an unprecedented demographic shift with a growing need for caregivers to address the needs of its elderly population. And the women and men of the “sandwich generation” — those caring for their children as well as a family member who is aging— are the ones feeling the most pressure.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, more than 65 million Americans provide care for a family member across the United States. Not to be confused with professional caregivers, family caregivers are usually untrained and often hold a full-time job while helping their relative by running errands, accompanying them to medical appointments, preparing meals and providing general care. Family caregivers shoulder the majority of long-term care in the United States — an estimated $450 billion in unpaid labor every year, according the AARP.

Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior care services at Care.com, a global company that connects consumers with caregivers, has more than 25 years of experience in the senior care industry. Gastfriend explains that most people believe that a family member can bear the responsibility of caring for an aging relative but that, over a longer period of time and without proper preparation and help, they will start feeling the stress, which can affect their entire family. “Providing care to a relative involves a number of obstacles that most people are not aware of,” she says.

In light of National Family Caregivers Month in November, Gastfriend says that families should do their best to anticipate a health crisis and do their research on long-term care options.  Understanding in advance what type of care might be needed and determining what the family is able to provide in terms of time, care and medical expenses can help save a lot of time, energy and money, she says. Gastfriend adds that caring for a relative should be a group effort that involves several family members and close friends. Gastfriend also stresses that the primary caregiver should always make sure to save some “me time” to be able to relax and avoid burnout.

The situations of family caregivers vary greatly. They can be younger or older, with a medical background or no training at all, and their commitment can be around-the-clock or intermittent, short-term or long-term, and requiring anything from basic assistance to specific skills. Regardless of their situation, a number of studies have shown that the responsibilities of caregiving can have a strong physical, emotional and psychological impact on the caregiver, which can lead to burnout manifesting as depression and anger. This is especially true if the care recipient suffers from a severe illness such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The aging U.S. population has created some great challenges, especially for Social Security and Medicare. However, just as so many industries are shrinking with the current economic crisis, caregiving industries are opening up opportunities for professionals and businesses that provide essential services to seniors or people with disabilities or illnesses. For young people looking for a safe career path, caregiving is as close as many will come to a sure bet.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.