Sandwich Generation – Caring for your Children and your Parents


With aging parents and young children, I am part of the sandwich generation.

What is the sandwich generation? A member of the sandwich generation is someone who cares for both their own children and their elderly parents. I have watched my parents and my in-laws deal with this situation. My husband’s grandfather moved in with my in-laws towards the end of his life. My step-grandfather moved into an assisted living facility near my parents. In both cases, the grandparents were forced to move far from their homes in order to be near family caregivers. Luckily for my parents and in-laws, their children were all grown by that point, which made it easier to care for the older generation.

What will happen with my relatives?

My mother had a health scare last weekend. She lives in Ohio and I live in Vermont, so I wasn’t able to see her. I felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do to help at that point and I needed to take care of my children. The long distance is a real challenge. Luckily, my mother still has family in Ohio to help out. If you live far from older relatives, make sure you have contact information for their neighbors, family, or close friends. 

a doctor and a patient discussing treatment

This health scare was a wake-up call. The whole family needs to think about what will happen when members of the older generation can no longer care for themselves. The younger generation has scattered far from home, so remaining in place may not be possible for the older generation. Commuting to care for relatives would be costly and time-consuming. The only other option is that the older generation will need to move closer to someone in the sandwich generation.

How do you uproot an entire lifetime?

It will be difficult for the older generation to give up the homes they have lived in for so long. Everyone is most comfortable in their own home. Leaving it behind is scary and heart-wrenching. At some point, though, it may become necessary. For example, my mother has to climb an entire flight of stairs to get into her house. She won’t be able to navigate those stairs forever. Also, home maintenance is a huge task, no matter what your age. So far, everyone in my grandparents’ generation has either moved into an assisted living facility or moved in with family members towards the end of their lives.

open house sign on a sidewalk

Leaving home becomes even more difficult when family is far away. In that case, leaving your house also means leaving your hometown. Moving near family also means making a big decision when they are all scattered across the country. I live far from my siblings, so when the time comes, my parents will have to choose which one of us to be near. Location choices vary from up here in Vermont to down in Atlanta. The sandwich generation often lives far from their parents. It’s a big, difficult choice for a family to make.

Discuss plans in advance.

You need to discuss end-of-life options with your parents before a medical emergency happens. Emergencies don’t always come with warning signs. If you wait, it might be too late. Aging and dying aren’t fun topics to discuss. However, ignoring these facts of life leaves children in the dark about their parents’ wishes. If an elderly parent becomes incapacitated, their children will make all the choices affecting their life. If they had discussed the parent’s wishes beforehand, the child could be confident that they made the right choices, and the elderly parent would be treated the way they prefer. 

a member of the sandwich generation holding hands with their parent

When my mother recovers from her health set-back, I will start a discussion with her. I need to find out where she wants to live if she can no longer take care of herself. Also, what are her wishes if something happens and she ends up alive but unresponsive? Making a plan now will save a lot of stress later on. No one really wants to talk about these issues, but they will eventually come, no matter how hard you try to ignore them.

What tips do you have for the sandwich generation? Do you have young children and elderly parents who may both need your care at the same time?




  1. This rings so true. These are all very real and deep conversations and considerations that have to take place however scary or painful. Thanks for writing this post.

  2. We had these conversations with my parents last Christmas. We asked for information on “where” all the details are, even if we didn’t need to know the details YET. For example, if someone passes away, how do we know where the next mortgage payment goes? Be aware of what accounts (bank, utilities, etc.) you may need to handle in the event of an emergency.


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