For Terri Archibald—a busy sales manager, university instructor, and registered dental hygienist—it’s nerve-racking knowing her 83-year-old mom lives alone, 350 kilometres away.
“It stresses me out that I’m not there if something happens and I can’t be there in that moment and run up to the house when she needs something.”
Archibald relies on phone calls and video chats to keep in touch with her mother as closely as she can. This is on top of managing a demanding career and checking in often with her two teenagers, who attend university and hold part-time jobs.
“My well-being sometimes takes a back seat because I’m always consciously thinking about them and their schedules.”
Archibald is part of the “sandwich generation,” the cohort of Canadians between 45 and 64 who give physical care, emotional support, or financial help to not only their children, but also their aging parents. If your elderly parents are living in place, the attention they need can increase.
The Sandwich Generation Bears a Heavy Burden
Examples of supporting your aging mom or dad include mowing their lawn, driving your dad to his doctor’s appointment, and helping your mom manage her bank account.
When it comes to your teens or adult kids, not only are you there for them when they need advice or a helping hand, but you may find yourself funding their education or helping them raise a down payment for a home. The financial costs add up still further when you factor in food, utilities, and other household expenses for any family members who live with you.
According to Statistics Canada, 700,000 Canadians serve as caregivers for their kids as well as their aging parents. Many of these middle-generation family caretakers are women.
When working moms get pulled in many directions—including caring for their elderly parents—the extra pressure takes a toll. Statistics Canada says that 60% of people serving as caregivers for their parents associate this role with psychological distress. To prioritize their loved ones, working caregivers often sacrifice employment earnings—for example, by working fewer hours or turning down opportunities—which eventually can lower their retirement savings.
Are you a sandwich-generation parent who feels squeezed?
Here are 3 tips to relieve the stress:
Consider whether your parents may agree it’s time to sell the family home.
Maybe their health is changing, home maintenance has gotten harder, or Dad feels lonely by himself. By transitioning into a smaller house or a retirement home where they’ll get the care and companionship they need, they may be better off—and you’ll be able to visit them when it’s convenient and better enjoy your time with them.
Strengthen your financial plan.
If you’re spending dollars or giving up earnings to support two family generations, you’ll want to be extra-sure you’re setting aside enough money for a comfortable retirement and lifestyle after downsizing. A financial advisor can help you manage your investments, understand the best way to use your home’s equity, and plan your estate to preserve wealth for your kids. Be sure your parents and children manage their finances wisely as well.
Ask yourself whether your current home meets your needs.
For some people, once they’re empty nesters, it’s time for a new home that reduces their home-maintenance costs and workload and lets them live the next chapter of their life to the fullest. We like to call this transition rightsizing. If it helps you be a good caregiver, you could even move in next door to Mom and Dad—or closer to your kids (if they’ll allow it).
If you’re crushed by the weight of multi-generational family caregiving, look for sources of help. For example, search for senior services that can help your elderly parents with driving or meal delivery.
For Archibald who lives far away from her mom, it’s reassuring to know her sister or brother-in-law can get to her mom’s place in minutes. “For me, it’s more phone calls—checking in on her to see how she’s doing.”