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Helping you and your loved ones live well in later life

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The sandwich generation survival guide

A growing number of working people find themselves in the so called sandwich generation; caring for dependent children and for elderly relatives at the same time.

March 23, 2021

Sandwich generation carers guide

Being part of the sandwich generation – squeezed between your immediate family and ageing parents – isn't something many people plan for. But now, as life expectancy increases, more and more of us can expect to find ourselves as a fully paid up member.  

Knowing how to help our parents as they age isn’t easy, especially when you already have so many plates to juggle (work, family life, your relationship and more).

So we’ve spoken to ElWell, the online hub that offers support to people in this exact situation, to find out what they recommend. Here’s their sandwich generation survival guide.


Making it a smooth transition when the tables turn

Many people find that helping their parents as they get older is the hardest piece of the family puzzle. That’s because we don’t often live with our parents and see them day to day, and also because they have their own wants, needs, finances – they’re used to being in control of their life.

The tables very much turn as our parents get older and us, their adult children step in. There needs to be understanding and commitment on both sides to make this a smooth transition.

The first step to helping your parents is actually to sit back and observe what the main concerns are.

You can’t just go in and say “you’re getting older and can’t cope” – you need to present scenarios and solutions.

Jessica Silver, Co-Founder of ElWell
  • Write down problems as and when you notice them (starting a Notes section on your phone can help keep it in one place).
  • For example, you may notice memory problems on a phone call, they may talk about loneliness, you see that their house is less tidy than it used to be or they mention all the medication they are taking.
  • This then gives you a solid basis to talk to them about how they are. Don’t surprise them with this conversation, and make sure that other relevant family members are part of this too.
  • The over-riding sentiment you want to communicate is that you’re here for them and looking for solutions, so they feel supported. Use conversation starters to help the chat along (“how are you, I was wondering if there’s anything you’ve noticed becoming harder?”), and try to let them lead it.
  • What you want is to raise all your noted areas of concern, see if they agree (or if they have other pressing worries) and then collectively agree on next steps.

And please remember, this is a big and complex conversation for you all to have, with lots of emotions.

Your parent especially may find it difficult and not want to admit to having problems. If this is the case, try and keep calm – it may be that today isn’t the day to have the chat.

Jessica Silver, Co-Founder of ElWell

Keep monitoring them and offering ways you could support (products, resources, even external help) and show you’re all there for them.

Write down problems as and when you notice them

You can save notes to your mobile phone to help you keep a record of things your parents may need help with


Power of attorney is one of life’s most important decisions

Someone recently got in touch with us for caregiving advice. An only child, she had moved abroad and was starting to worry about her parents. One of the first questions I asked was whether they had power of attorney in place, and when the answer was “no”, we helped her understand what it was and why it’s so important.

Essentially, power of attorney is one of the most important things anyone can set up that may never be used. It’s a legal document where you nominate someone to act on your behalf if you lose mental capacity and are no longer able to.  If your parent becomes unwell, you can’t just access their bank accounts to pay for their care, or make health-related decisions for them. The only person who can do this is their appointed POA.

There are two types of lasting POA – health and welfare, and property & financial affairs. Even if your parent wants the same person to be their attorney for both, it’s two different applications.

It’s straightforward to apply and your parent will need to do it themselves. You can help by downloading the form from the Office Of The Public Guardian.

Download a Power of Attorney form

It costs £82 per application – and could be some of the best investment into wellbeing ever spent.

Download forms


Asking for help

We know that asking for help and delegating can be tough but no one can do everything! Setting healthy boundaries is right for you and your wellbeing, but can also benefit your parent too.

  • Write down everything you do, and then be honest with what you (and other people who can help) are capable with taking on. From there, assign tasks that work to people’s strengths and locations.
  • Even if your sibling lives abroad, there’s still things they can do. From researching care facilities and updating you all, to organising flowers for Mother’s Day – be direct and ask for the help you need.
  • It might also help to set up a Whatsapp group so that you and your siblings can easily discuss how your parents are and keep each other updated.
  • If you already feel that you’ve taken on the lion’s share, it doesn’t have to stay this way. Speak up and ask for help. After all, how can you help your parent with their wellbeing if you’re feeling drained?

Remember to care for yourself too

Almost two thirds of carers (64%) say that they have focused on the care needs of the person they care for, and not on their own needs.**


Carers statistics
** Statistics from "Supporting carer health and wellbeing in the workplace", Carers UK

Getting the support of your employers

Two thirds of people caring for someone are balancing this with work. Caring most definitely isn’t a 9-5 role, and a quarter of employees want their employers to recognise this and offer elder support within their benefits.

Over lockdown, we’ve all realised that traditional workplace benefits don’t cut the mustard, and we need personalised wellbeing support. Looking after our parents as they get older can be challenging and mentally exhausting, and the employers who recognise this are really thinking of their staff.

  • If you’re finding the juggle all too much, speak with your boss.
  • They may well be putting measures in place to help caregivers.
  • Even if they’re not, discuss what support you need from them to help you stay at work.
  • After all, you’re a valued member of their team and they should want to retain you.

Carers in work
*** Statistics from "Juggling work and unpaid care", Carers UK

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