One in four Canadians cares for an elderly parent; almost one in five have responsibilities for both eldercare and childcare – approximately 750,000 individuals (Williams, 2004). The term ‘sandwich generation’ defines those who provide care both to their children as well as their parents – sandwiched between two caregiving roles. The vast majority (80%) of those with children and caring for an elderly person were employed.
Increasingly women are delaying childbearing and are working more; in North America these changes mean the average married couple may have more living parents than children (Preston, 1984). Combined with a longer life span of their parents these individuals are then caught between child rearing, caring for their parents, and the demands emerging from employment. This dual caregiving role, while being stressful, can also have significant rewards due to the appropriateness of life cycle role. Recent surveys have shown that most people (82%) who worked while providing both child care and elder care are generally satisfied with the balance they had struck (Williams, 2004). Other studies find that adult children experience more rewards than do spousal caregivers (Raschick & Ingersoll-Dayton, 2004).
However, while parents have seen child-care services evolve, little formal support has been established for the growing number of those caring for seniors. Employed caregivers who are part of the sandwich generation are likely to be older and live in smaller communities, with one in three earning low-income (Duxbury, Higgins & Schroeder, 2009). This ‘sandwich generation’ will have increasing caregiving responsibilities as the baby boom generation ages.