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The Sandwich Generation: You Are Not Alone

If world renowned actress, super-model and mother, Brooke Shields can juggle her career, two children, and care for her ailing mother, so can you.

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Shields is a member of a growing demographic called the “Sandwich Generation,” a term coined by Carol Abaya in 2006. Members of this generation are between the ages of 40-65, and are simultaneously caring for their children and their parents.

For many, providing for a nuclear family proves to be difficult as it is. But for the 66 million Americans caring for their children, spouses and parent(s), the responsibility is more intense, both financially and emotionally.

The typical Sandwich Generation member is a 48-year-old woman. She maintains a paying job and spends an average of 20 hours a week providing care for a parent(s).

Shields, who has a mother suffering from dementia, assumed her caregiver role some time ago. Although she has experience under her belt, she still finds her job stressful and overwhelming, and feels it’s important to be around people that are experiencing the same situation.

“Surround yourself, if you can, with people that do know about it and ask many questions,” said Shields, during a recent appearance on AARP’s My Generation, a Baby Boomer-focused cable show. “The more knowledge you have, that it is common, the better I think it makes you to cope with it.”

Sandwich Generation support groups have begun to populate on the Internet. Websites like thesurvivorsclub.com allow members to ask questions and share their experiences about caring for their parents.

Sandwichers can also gain support from the community. In July, Sandwich Generation Month, caregivers should be on the lookout for local events spotlighting this specific generation.

“In coming years and as public awareness grows, Sandwich Generation Month will bring the community and families together to heighten understanding of the special needs of the Sandwich Generation, as well as to spotlight community support available to those working so hard to maintain multi-generational families,” said Fiona Middleton, Vice President of Sandwich Generation Month national sponsor. “We will also celebrate the hard work, compassion, patience and dedication of the Sandwich Generation members, those actively providing care for both children and their aging parents.”
 
AARP understands the difficulty of caring for your family and your parent(s). AARP’s website offers an abundance of caregiving information for multi-generational families.

“AARP Florida works every year to protect and improve Florida home- and community-based services that benefit families coping with multiple caregiving responsibilities,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida’s state director.

Recently, President Obama introduced a proposal to spend $102.5 million to support adult children taking care of elderly parents at home.

“The upcoming 2012 election offers Sandwich Generation voters a chance to ask candidates where they stand on this issue,” said Johnson.

Voters should really keep their ears and eyes open when it comes to issues affecting the Sandwich Generation, even if they aren’t caregivers. You may not be a member today, but you might be one day.

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