American families provide 89 percent of in-home care which is estimated to be equal to $250 billion per year in the health care system.  Many of these people are sandwiched between the needs of multiple generations, while managing their day to day responsibilities. July was Sandwich Generation Month recognizing caregivers that provide care to those they love that are both older and younger. 

The Sandwich Generation is described very neatly by several authors as a variety of different kinds of sandwiches depending on the characteristics of the care provided. For example, a basic bologna sandwich describes those caregivers that provide care for aging parents as well as their own  children. A triple-decker sandwich identifies those that are caring for children, parents and grandparents or parents, children and grandchildren.

As a Sandwich Generationer, I relate the experience to one of my favorite foods; the Oreo sandwich cookie.  Those that are in this group can relate to the visual picture of how this beloved dessert can relate to life as a caregiver in the Sandwich Generation.  The neatly presented Oreo cookie; perfectly placed outside layers cushioned by a creamy center is suddenly twisted apart in opposite directions with the center scraped out by sharp, pointy teeth.  Or alternatively it may be suddenly dunked in a huge glass of milk, unable to come up for air, until it has been rendered very soggy. This is the life of caregiving.  A perfectly planned day is diverted by unplanned caregiving needs, redirection to plan B or even C, then the reapplication of lipstick to the smile on your face, or the straightening of the tie around your neck as you come up for air and complete the rest of the day.  All of this is part of the normal daily life of caregivers in the Sandwich Generation.  Someone needs your time, attention, physical presence or intervention in-between the demands of your job, dropping the kids at gymnastics, and getting the grocery shopping done. Caregiving is truly a labor of love.

Avoid some of the problems generated as a result of caregiving multitasking by: creating a plan of care, thinking proactively, practicing prevention, accepting help, holding family meetings, making time for your self, and utilizing your resources.

The Oreo cookie continues to be one of my favorite foods, despite the fact it is a symbol of my life and not good for my waist line. It just tastes good and allows me to take a moment for myself.  Grab an Oreo, share your Sandwich Generation story with others at www.sandwichgenerationmonth.com, and celebrate life and those you love.