The sandwich generation

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

by Randy Forbes

There’s something special about photographs that capture multiple generations of family members together. Grandfather, father and son. Grandmother, mother and daughter. Great Aunt, father and daughter.

They’re special because you can see the resemblance — the thread of family heritage — passed down between the family members, from the gray hair and smile lines of the oldest to the youthful energetic smile of the youngest family member.

The photos are also a beautiful representation of how care is passed down from one generation to another. A reminder that, at some point in our lives, we will be both a recipient of care and a giver of care, whether as a child, a parent or a family caregiver.

One group of Americans is very aware of this cycle of care. These Americans are providing care in two very different directions. They’re called the Sandwich Generation — individuals who find themselves “sandwiched” between caring for an aging parent and their own young children or young adult.

The Sandwich Generation isn’t a new phrase, but the group of Americans who will be put into roles as “sandwiched” caregivers is growing. Almost half (47 percent) of Americans in their 40s and 50s have a parent who is 65 or older and are either raising a minor child or financially supporting an adult child at the same time. The Sandwich Generation will continue to grow. An increasing number of baby boomers are moving into retirement age, living longer lives, and, as a result, requiring costlier care. A Pew Research study pointed to the recession and sluggish economic recovery as another reason for the rise. Slow economic recovery has taken a toll on young adults, many who have had difficulty finding full-time jobs and may rely on extra support from their parents.

Americans who find themselves sandwiched caregivers don’t just have dual responsibilities. Some spend an average of 20 hours a week providing care for a parent on top of working a full-time job. This could be anything from simple and sporadic care, like running errands and helping with finances, to time-consuming care like doctor and hospital visits and advance care planning. Add in the financial and emotional investment of caring for multiple generations, and the responsibilities grow quickly.

It’s likely that you or someone you know is in this situation, or will be at some point in the future. Here are some resources you can refer to that may help you as you provide care to our aging generations:

Virginia Division for the Aging has a network of 25 agencies that provide services for seniors in Virginia’s communities. The site includes an option for you to search for agencies near your home.

Full Circle of Care offers a range of resources, from tax assistance resources, caregiver checklists, information on long-distance caregiving, information on services for caregivers and more.

HUD Information for Seniors provides information on housing options for aging parents or relatives.

The Virginia Family Caregiver Solution Center offers an online forum connecting people caring for elderly parents. Participants post ideas, questions and recommendations.

Virginia Navigator provides access to programs and services available to Virginia seniors and caregivers.

In addition, my office has produced a Seniors Organizational Toolkit that you can use to help a parent or loved one organize important documents.

Many of us will either become members of the Sandwich Generation at some point in our lives or find ourselves caring for an aging family member. Whether providing full- or part-time, or in-home or long-distance care, the people, services, and information you have access to will help you in your journey.

If you’re a caregiver in the Sandwich Generation, we’d like to hear about it on Facebook. Perhaps there is a resource you’ve found helpful or tip you’d like to share with others who find themselves in this role. Join the conversation at

Congressman RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at