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Posted: Monday, September 18, 2023

Multigenerational Caregiving

The National Alliance for Caregiving estimates there are 11 million “sandwich caregivers” in the United States, referring to adults who are caring for an aging parent while also raising their own children. Many from younger generations found themselves in caregiving roles for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s a bell curve of generations showing who has stepped into that caregiving role. Around 60 percent of caregivers coming out of the pandemic are now Gen-Z or Millennials,” Blount Memorial licensed clinical social worker Edward Harper said.

Sandwiched caregivers are more stressed than ever. Trying to provide care to two different households and two different age groups, all while trying to work full time, comes with its own unique set of challenges. In addition to the stress, time and financial constraints, there also may be a more significant emotional toll. In addition, with each generation living longer, the timeframe of necessary long-term caregiving continues to increase. Some may find this caregiving role consumes decades of their lives.

Enter multigenerational caregiving, a concept focusing on life as a family that takes care of one another, rather than the burden being on one caregiver to take care of multiple family members in separate households. “This is a pre-nuclear family lifestyle that is emerging as a necessity - the middle-class response to the pressures of aging,” Harper explained. This approach is especially helpful in cases of Alzheimer’s because it enriches the patient’s quality of life. Consistency of care and the personnel providing care reduces tension and stress for both patients and caregivers.

This type of dynamic can reduce the social and emotional toll, as well as stress, but multigenerational caregiving also allows each generation to benefit from the other. Memories can be made, lessons can be passed down, grandparents don’t feel so alone and older children can help with some aspects of the care. It is estimated that multigenerational caregivers give around two-and-a-half hours a day of unpaid care, which includes tasks such as hands-on assistance with dressing, eating, medical care and providing transportation. “However, being a caregiver is complicated. While there are many advantages, there are disadvantages in the focus, expending of energy, time and exclusion of others. For example, if you’re busy taking care of your mother, you also probably aren’t able to be the mother you wish you could be to your own children,” Harper said.

Multigenerational caregiving also may be an option to reduce the financial burden of the cost of in-home, non-medical care. Since access to paid family leave isn’t always an option, some caregivers are taking unpaid time to address their loved ones’ needs. Four-in-10 adults say financial issues are the main reason why they live with adult family members other than a spouse or partner. Full-time assisted living or nursing homes can be expensive and may be out of the price range of lower income families, meaning care must be given at home. Multigenerational caregiving then becomes the answer to limited time, financial and physical resources available to primary caregivers.

For more information about caregiver consultations or caregiver resources offered in Blount County, contact Blount Memorial Senior Services at 865-977-5744.

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