In the past couple of weeks, in-between teaching our son to drive, my husband has been to the hospital more than once with his mother. The latest being when she’d fallen at home. Although nothing seemed broken the lovely paramedics thought she ought to go hospital, just in case. Before she left the hospital they wanted to know, who was around to care for her?
So who steps up?
Right now, we are the sandwich generation. Between elderly parents and dependent children and grandchildren the pressures of caring are falling hardest on middle-aged women. Although men and women can end up in this role 1 in 4 ‘baby-boomer’ women are now carers. Women who are at the peak of their careers. Particularly those in their 40s-60s are more likely to give up work or reduce their working hours to care.
According to Carers UK’s research the number of middle-aged (50-64) female carers has risen by 13%, to 1.2 million, in the last ten years.
If this isn’t you, I expect you know someone who is caring for a family member.
Sandwiched between older parents, and grown up children who either still live at home or are juggling high household bills and childcare costs. Many women are caring for parents, supporting older children and caring for grandchildren.
A large number of my friends have childcare duties. They want to help, but it’s hard work when you’re not as young and energetic as you were. (Average nursery costs are £125 per week, a chunk out of the weekly wage and that’s only for one child). Grandparents trying to help cut costs, by looking after toddlers while their parents are at work. Or picking up school age children until their parents get home.
But all of this caring comes at more than a monetary cost. Looking after family members can have an impact on mental health. Tending to neglect their own wellbeing, anxiety and depression can creep in as the carer becomes stressed and tired under all the responsibility.
And if the carer becomes ill what happens to the cared for?
I have no solution in this post and the only consolation is to know that you’re not alone and there are organisations out there that can give practical support, provide some financial help and a listening ear.
CarersUk can advise on everything from finance to equipment, their website has lots of in-depth information, guides, factsheets and an online forum. Although their latest report (July 2019) has some scary statistics on the growth of unpaid caring in the UK.
The important thing in all of this is to talk to someone. You can talk to and get advice from your GP. Also some area’s have a local carer’s centre where you can speak to someone in confidence about how you are coping.
Learning to ask for and accept help is the first big step. Help may not be in the way of taking over care. It could be other tasks or chores which free up time for you to take a break. We all need to know this as it looks like the sandwich generation are going to be stuck in the middle for some time yet.