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The Broomfielder

Community Resources Available for the ‘Sandwich Generation’ Squeezed by Multiple Caregiver Roles

Oct 01, 2018 12:24PM ● By Mike Garrison

By Kristen Beckman

More and more middle-aged Americans are finding themselves taking on the role of caring for their aging parents while also still raising young children or financially supporting adult children. This phenomenon – known as the sandwich generation – is becoming increasingly common as America’s largest generation enters its golden years at a time when young Americans are struggling to gain a financial foothold in the face of high student debt loads and expensive housing markets. 

About one in eight Americans are performing this dual-caretaker role, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013. The share of middle-aged adults living in the sandwich generation has increased slightly in recent years, but the financial squeeze associated with caring for multiple generations has grown at an even greater pace. According to Pew, nearly half of adults aged 40-59 provide some financial support to at least one grown child and more than one-quarter of parents in this age group are the primary financial support for their adult child. About one in five middle-aged adults have provided financial support to a parent aged 65 or older.

Not only do many caregivers provide financial support to both parents and children, but about 38 percent also said their parents and grown children also rely on them for emotional support, according to the research.

Three-quarters of the 44 million unpaid elder caregivers in the country also work 35 or more hours a week. Trying to remain productive at work while juggling caregiver roles can lead to job stress or the need to change jobs to accommodate caregiving responsibilities, job loss, and difficulty maintaining a healthy work life balance. Devoting an increased amount of time to caregiving responsibilities can also lead to health concerns and mental and emotional health issues, including anxiety and depression. 

Caregiver burnout is a real thing. Experts recommend looking for resources within the community to help alleviate some of the stress of taking care of elderly family members. Broomfield has an extensive menu of services designed to improve quality of life for its senior residents, and these programs can also help caregivers provide the best possible care for their elderly loved ones while still being able to manage other responsibilities in their lives.

Services provided by Broomfield Senior Services and the city’s Department of Health and Human Services include assistance with transportation, nutrition, and education.

Ben Vagher, president of Senior Resources of Broomfield, which provides support to many of the city’s programs, said seniors make up the fastest-growing demographic in Broomfield and their needs vary. One of the biggest issues facing the community’s seniors is basic housing concerns, including being able to afford to move when the house they’ve lived in for decades no longer works for them or making the decision to move into a retirement facility. Senior Resources of Broomfield helps with counseling and education to help seniors find solutions to their housing concerns. The organization also has a handyman program to help seniors deal with home repairs.

Mobility is also a primary concern for seniors, many of whom no longer drive, as well as their caregivers who often pick up the responsibility for providing transportation. Broomfield’s Easy Ride program provides door-to-door, wheelchair-accessible transportation for doctor’s appointments, grocery store trips, errands, exercise classes, and social engagements by appointment.

The city’s nutrition programs can also help eliminate stress around making sure seniors have access to healthy food. Vagher said the city’s lunch program at the Senior Center is typically well attended, and Meals on Wheels fills in the gap for seniors who aren’t mobile. Meals on Wheels is available to any Broomfield resident 60 years or older regardless of income, and provides affordable meals delivered to their door. Caregiving family members who reside at the same address may also qualify for Meals on Wheels.

In addition, remaining socially and physically engaged with the community is important for seniors, said Vagher.

“As individuals and couples age, they are very proud people, and they don’t want to bother other people for whatever their needs or are what they aren’t capable of doing,” said Vagher. “A lot close themselves up a bit and they don’t want to get out. They think they are a problem, so their world gets a lot smaller. We are working hard to make sure they are still part of the community.”