What Is Meant by the Club Sandwich Generation?

taking care of multiple generations can be exhausting
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The term club sandwich generation refers to a generation that is helping to care for three other generations. The term is a spin-off of the term sandwich generation, meaning a generation caught between the demands of caring for children and for aging parents.

Typically members of the club sandwich generation are caring for elderly parents, providing some support for adult children and helping to care for grandchildren. Some may even have minor children still at home.

Grandparents who are raising grandchildren are often some of the most stressed members of the club sandwich generation. Often grandparents bring up their grandchildren because the children's parents have problems with substance abuse, incarceration, health or finances. In such circumstances the grandparents may be involved in taking care of the parents as well as the children. If the grandparents must care for their own aging parents, that adds the fourth layer of concern. 

Stresses That Come From Sharing Housing

The same stresses that put pressure on the club sandwich generation sometimes result in families having to move in together. Although multi-generational living can be an enjoyable lifestyle, it always presents some challenges. When the generations must combine households out of necessity rather than free will, those challenges are likely to be multiplied. Besides issues that may occur with actual living space, conflict may erupt over personal space and boundaries. Humans are, after all, biological creatures with an inclination toward territoriality. 

Disagreements over how to discipline children can also create conflict. In addition, if one or both of the combing households include pets, other issues may arise. Many families consider their pets members of the family. Pet problems need to be solved before they turn into family problems. 

Shared housing can facilitate child care and elder care, however. In addition, it can offer significant savings. Family members who share housing not only cut out one rent or mortgage payment, but they should also cut the costs of utilities, taxes and insurance. They may be able to share appliances and vehicles, which can also result in savings.

Financial Stresses

Although some families can save money by combining households, the ingredients that go into the club sandwich may instead create financial stress. If the issue is substance abuse, the cost of medical treatment and rehab facilities can be sky high. When a member of the family is incarcerated, the other members not only have to take on that person's duties but also must make up for lost incomes. If a family member has significant health issues, those often bring medical expenses, huge if the ailing person is uninsured, but still significant with most insurance policies. And in today's volatile economy, many families have financial difficulty through no fault of their own, and many others make financial errors that compound their money troubles.

Caring for Your Partner

If you are married or have a significant other, you are likely to find that you've put your marriage on the back burner. That's seldom a good idea. After all, grandparents get divorces, too, when they neglect their relationships. It's imperative to carve out time for your partner. If you are caring for a elder, investigate respite care. If you are caring for grandchildren, let other family members know that there are certain times when you will not be available to babysit. After all, it's important for you to model a happy marriage for your grandchildren.

This, Too, Will Pass

The most important thing to remember about all of these situations is that they are likely to be temporary. Grandchildren will grow up and won't need babysitters. The older members of our family will, sadly, pass away. Financial issues and health concerns can be recovered from. You may be surprised that when you look back on hard times, you stumble across good times, too. Hard times can bring families closer together. Caregiving is exhausting but can also create many precious memories. It's also gratifying to know that when your family needed you, you were there.

Even the hardest times sometimes have a silver lining.