According to a study by the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry, nearly a quarter of adults who care for a parent over 65 also care for at least one minor child. These people who find themselves caring for an aging parent while also supporting their own children are members of what is called “the sandwich generation.” 

If you are a part of the sandwich generation, you may find it difficult to give your family members the attention you feel they deserve or become frustrated, angry, or resentful as you struggle with meeting everyone’s needs while having minimal time to think about your own.

This is why it’s crucial for sandwich-generation caregivers to remember to prioritize their own needs. In the below guide, we provide some more background on the challenges faced by the sandwich generation, and share strategies on how you can manage the stress that comes with caring for multiple generations of loved ones. 

What Is the Sandwich Generation?

The sandwich generation is a term used to describe adults who care for an aging parent while also either raising a minor child or financially contributing to a child over 18. Nearly a quarter of adults in the U.S. are believed to be a part of the sandwich generation, and 90% of those in this group are between the ages of 40 to 59, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. 

Challenges Faced by Sandwich Caregiver Families

Compared to those who take care of aging parents but not any children, members of the sandwich generation are more than twice as likely to experience financial difficulty and have a greater chance of suffering emotional challenges. Without prioritizing their own needs and ensuring they have a support system in place, the challenges placed on sandwich generation members can negatively impact their health and quality of life.

Below, we provide more background on some of the common challenges faced by sandwich generation caregivers and their families. 

Complicated Family Dynamics 

The sandwich generation is tasked with meeting the unique needs of different generations at the same time. Their senior parents may be ill, have limited mobility, and/or need financial and emotional support and require the assistance of the sandwich generation member to remain outside of an assisted living facility or nursing home. At the same time, the sandwich generation member’s children also require monetary, physical, and emotional assistance. 

Lack of Personal Time

University of Michigan researchers determined that 69% of those in the sandwich generation work outside of the home while also helping multiple generations of family members. Full-time working caregivers typically spend three hours a day caring for parents and children, which in addition to a full work day, leaves little time to relax or consider their own needs.


It is challenging to care for aging parents and children, especially at the same time. This may result in sandwich generation members feeling like they’re not the best parent they could be or the type of child or caretaker their parent deserves. 

It is also not uncommon for sandwich generation members to feel a sense of loss of independence, anger, or resentment as the caregiving needs of their family increase. This can lead to a sense of guilt for having these feelings. It is important to address and not ignore or internalize these feelings.  

How to Manage Stress from Sandwich Generation Caregiving

On average, those in the sandwich generation lose thirty minutes of sleep each night and are prone to developing chronic stress. Chronic stress is linked to serious life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. To prevent this, you must not forget to enlist the help of others where you can, delay or say no to tasks that are not important, and develop a system to track and assign responsibility for essential tasks. 

Delegate Where You Can

Make a list of what must be done, determine if any family, friends, or others can help, and cross tasks off as they are completed. Having a plan reduces stress, ensures everything gets done on time, and allows everyone to work together. It also enables you to take a break if others can handle tasks you would otherwise take care of on your own.  

Be Specific When Asking for Help

Consider having family meetings where you can discuss what needs to be done and who is available to help out. While those who live in the same home are especially knowledgeable about routines and how they should be done, don’t hesitate to reach out to family outside the household for assistance. Often these loved ones want to assist, but don’t know specifically how. A list of tasks you could use help with offers actionable ideas of ways they can contribute. You can also send out emails to family and friends of areas they could help with a way to sign up for specific tasks. 

Look For Ways to Simplify or Automate Tasks

Responsibilities often grow over time as parents get older and children become more involved in extracurricular activities. Consider where tasks can be reorganized or automated to free up time for other responsibilities, such as your career, or for time to relax or spend with friends. 

For example, you should keep important numbers, medical information, and legal documents in one place and save them as a single document. This allows other caregivers to have easy access to information and to take on and complete additional responsibilities. Also consider scheduling pharmacy deliveries, meal planning services, and automatic payments so you have more time to spend on your job and family. 

Lean On Professionals When Needed

Caregivers can talk about their feelings and concerns and receive helpful advice through professional counseling or support groups attended by other caregivers caring for aging parents and children. You can also check if your job offers benefits for caregivers or working parents or if these are available through local programs or services in your community. 

You can find mental health professionals near you using Psychology Today’s search tool

Find Time for Self-Care

You should find time every day to do something you enjoy to help with handling stress while taking care of your family. You should also make an effort to take care of your overall well-being by eating healthy food, hydrating, and staying active. You can enroll in exercise classes, walk around your neighborhood, read, or just spend some time alone if you need to recharge. Taking care of your own needs makes you a better caregiver for your family. 

Sandwich Generation FAQs

What ages are typically associated with the sandwich generation?

A majority of those in the sandwich generation are between the ages of 40 and 49 and the next most common age group is 50-59. It is unlikely for sandwich generation members to be younger than 30 or older than 59.  

What are the psychological effects of sandwich generation?

Common psychological effects of being in the sandwich generation include chronic stress, depression, and anxiety due to its overwhelming financial and psychological demands and the mixture of emotions that result.