The Role of Planning for Those in the Sandwich Generation

The Role of Planning for Those in the Sandwich Generation

In addition to demands on a caregiver’s time and the emotional toll it can take, members of the Sandwich Generation can also suffer financially. 

At first, it was easy for Gloria to look after her mother, Dolores. After all, Gloria lived and worked close by. She could easily stop by Dolores’s house after work to see how she was doing, take out her trash, and do other minor chores. Gloria still had time to go to her daughter Tina’s school activities and help her with homework; but as time went on, Gloria and Tina began to see that things at Dolores’ house were beginning to change. Mail began to pile up around Dolores including late notices, they began taking meals to her, and over time realized that it wouldn’t be long before she would not be able to live on her own. 

Who is Affected? 

Gloria is one of 37.1 million Americans1 in the “Sandwich Generation,” defined as “adults who have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising at least one child younger than 18 or providing financial support to an adult child”2 by the Pew Research Center. According to their 2021 survey, almost a quarter of U.S. adults are part of the Sandwich Generation;2 the majority of whom are between the ages of 40-59 and according to the 2021-2022 American Time Use Study, 59% of unpaid eldercare providers are women.3  

Why is it an Issue? 

Modifications, such as wider doorways and the installation of ramps may need to be made to a parent’s or caregiver’s home to accommodate mobility devices such as walkers and/or wheelchairs. Grab bars, high profile toilets, and low/no threshold showers may need to be installed. If a loved one needs care during working hours, home healthcare may be required or  moving the loved one to a long-term-care facility may be necessary. 

 If there are not enough resources to cover these costs, some caregivers are left no other option than to reduce or eliminate their retirement contributions to fund these expenses. This may cause them to miss out on their own contributions including employer matching benefits and Social Security contributions; a cascading effect substantially reducing the caregiver’s retirement nest egg. In turn, this may result in their own children needing to support them in their old age. 

After battling cancer three times, Jennifer’s mother, Barbara, moved in with her and her daughter Christi. Barbara insisted on paying rent and had friends who helped take her to doctors’ appointments and other activities, illustrating the importance of friendships and community during challenging times. While Jennifer had the advantage of working for an employer who placed family first – providing her the flexibility to take time off work when needed – the support provided by Barbara’s friends helped relieve some of the stress on Jennifer, including taking more time off than necessary. 

What Can Be Done? 

In Gloria’s case, they ultimately had a discussion  where both Gloria and Dolores agreed to sell their homes and buy a new one with a mother-in-law suite.  

In Jennifer’s case, her siblings and aunts lived out of state but would come in to help with Barbara’s care.  

Having a plan in place before an aging loved one needs help can make the transition much easier. For example, if you see that a loved one is beginning to need more help taking care of their home and/or themselves, talk to them about what they would like as they age. Do they want to stay home, stay with you or a sibling, or do they want to move to a long-term-care home? Allowing them to have agency in their future plans and communicating what they want will empower them and you when it comes time for decisions and transitions to be made. This will also help you research the feasibility of their desires versus what they can afford. If there is not enough money for what they want, you will need to discuss alternatives. 

When siblings are involved, it’s important to discuss how much each can contribute to care both financially and with respect to time. This can ease the financial burden, alleviate tensions, and feelings of resentment. Having these conversations with those in need of care and those who will contribute to those needs over the long-term may be difficult but will make all the difference in creating a supportive, collaborative, and unified approach and environment when that time comes. 


Fortunately, there are many resources available to caregivers. Local agencies on aging can provide information and referral services for things like transportation, meals, senior centers, home repair/maintenance, respite care, and many others. AARP has a plethora of information online to support caregivers with guidance on what to expect as a caregiver, different types of care, financial and legal resources, and stories about other caregivers. Curated by Colony, a concierge service of The Colony Group, provides access to Care Right and O’Connor Professional Group. These firms provide white glove service to families navigating the journey of caring for aging loved ones. The Colony Group can also provide bill pay services to clients and their families to ensure a loved one’s bills are paid in a timely manner. 


Although Gloria and Jennifer’s stories are different, both are glad that they have/had the opportunity to care for their mothers and would not change their decisions as the positives outweigh the negatives.  

Gloria and Tina’s advice? To find support in people who’ve gone through what you’re going through. Don’t listen to people who begin their advice with, “Why don’t you just…” They recommend becoming an advocate for your loved one regarding services and support they may be entitled to; and don’t forget to look for positive moments. Gloria and Tina keep a log of some of Dolores’s quips. She once asked them, “Did you get that?” “Get what?” they replied. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” she retorted. Try to laugh and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

Jennifer shared how nice it was being able to walk down the hall to talk to her mom when they lived together. On her last New Year’s Eve, Barbara was transitioning. She asked Jennifer for pizza and beer – a very unusual request – and shared that Jennifer’s father had been the love of her life something Jennifer never knew even after he had passed away many years prior. 

If the idea of planning care and/or finances for a loved one, elderly or young adult, is overwhelming, consider speaking with your financial advisor. They may have resources that can help you on your journey.