Our generation is now being referred to as the “sandwich generation,” i.e., we are the bologna and cheese between two thick slabs of children and parents in the great hoagie of life. Good child care, while not always easy to find, is relatively abundant, accessible and affordable for most working parents. Good elder care? Not so much. In the U.S., the vast majority of eldercare is provided not in continuing care retirement communities, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes, but in the community, by the family (National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2004).
Dr. Donna Wagner led a diary study for Evercare and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) (2007) and found that out-of-pocket costs of giving care to family members by family members average $5,531, more than 10% of the median income of the group which was $43,026” (Evercare & NAC, p. 7). Respondents indicated that to finance these out-of-pocket costs they cut back on vacations, leisure activities, savings, and home improvement and major purchases. The caregivers made up the difference by taking the personal and financial hits themselves. There is only so long that anyone—even Superman or Superwoman can do this without running aground emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Many caregivers in this study reported “picking up or increasing bad habits (smoking, drinking too much), worsening health problems of their own, inability to go to medical or dental appointments, insomnia, feelings of depression and hopelessness, weight changes, and added stress and anxiety” (Evercare & NAC, p. 27).