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For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
(H. L. Mencken)
They are called the "sandwich generation", or people caught between the often conflicting demands of raising children and caring for aging parents or other relatives. And their life can be particularly stressful and hectic.
Almost 3 in 10 of those aged 45 to 64 with unmarried children under 25 in the home, or some 712,000 individuals, were also caring for a senior, according to a new study based on the 2002 General Social Survey.
More than 8 in 10 of these sandwiched individuals worked, causing some to reduce or shift their hours or to lose income.
Indeed, caring for an elderly person could lead to a change in work hours, refusal of a job offer, or a reduction in income. Some 15% of sandwiched workers had to reduce their hours, 20% had to change their schedules and 10% lost income.
Also, 4 in 10 sandwiched workers incurred extra expenses such as renting medical equipment or purchasing cell phones.
Women were more likely than men to be sandwiched. On average, women spent 29 hours a month providing care to seniors, more than twice as many as the 13 hours spent by their male counterparts. The extra hours for women may be due in part to the type of care performed. For example, outside home maintenance and transportation assistance were most often done by men. Women were more likely to provide personal care such as bathing, dressing or feeding, and in-home care such as food preparation and clean up.
The vast majority of individuals provided care for their parents or parents-in-law. About 25% was directed toward other relatives, friends, neighbours or co-workers.
The effects of providing care increased with time spent. For example, one-half of those spending more than eight hours per month, or the so-called "high-intensity caregivers", had to change their social activities. Over one-third had to change their work schedule.
Sandwiched workers were more likely to feel generally stressed. About 70% of them reported stress, compared with about 61% of workers with no child-care or elder-care responsibilities.
However, the overwhelming majority (95%) felt satisfied with life in general, about the same percentage as those with fewer caregiving responsibilities.
The ranks of the sandwich generation are likely to grow, because of the aging of the baby boomers, lower fertility rates and the delay in family formation. These factors will result in older family members requiring care when children are still part of the household.
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