How an EAP Can Help Manage Sandwich Generation Stress
Sandwich Generation Stress – How an EAP Can Help Lift the Weight of Caregiving
For employees who are part of the Sandwich Generation, the weight of their personal lives could be affecting their work-life in a unique manner. Named for being “sandwiched” between the needs of their aging parents and those of their growing children, members of the Sandwich Generation often face unique hurdles compared to their coworkers. Sandwichers may hesitate to come to their employer with their personal issues in fears of being labeled a liability. Whether you’re an employer or employee, discovering that your company’s EAP can help with Sandwich Generation stress often comes as a surprise.
What’s Behind Sandwich Generation Stress?
Meet Alice. She’s a 40-something professional with big plans for her career. She’s raising her two tweens in a three-bedroom home in the suburbs.
About six months ago, Alice’s mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Alice quickly made the decision to become her mother’s caregiver, for financial and moral reasons. But with her mother’s condition worsening, it has been more difficult to focus on her career, family, financial obligations, and caregiving responsibilities.
It would help if she could ask to leave early once a week for doctor’s appointments, but she’s worried such a request will hurt her reputation at work.
Like Alice, the Sandwich Generation faces unique challenges, including the following.
There’s been a social movement in the focus on self-care. But for those in the Sandwich Generation, the concept of free time is almost laughable. Between work, making lunches, helping with homework, driving to appointments, maintaining the home, and everything in-between, there’s not much time left for even a lunch break.
Their bank accounts are stretched
Sandwichers often struggle financially. Raising one child costs an average of $233,000 (without college) and polls show that Sandwichers can spend nearly $7,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs caring for their loved ones. When mortgage payments, student loans, credit card debt, and saving for retirement are added in, Sandwichers are often playing a financial game they can’t win.
They’re battling emotional stress
With little free time and drained bank accounts, it’s no wonder Sandwich Generation stress is running rampant. Research shows that adults caring for both their children and parents are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.
Those outside of the Sandwich Generation may not realize the burdens their coworkers carry, and for those doing the heavy lifting, we want them to know they’re not alone.
According to the T. Rowe Price 2019 Parents, Kids & Money Survey, more than 1/3 of parents with children between the ages of 8 and 14 care for an aging family member simultaneously. And of those who care for their parents or a close aging relative, nearly 70% do so in their own home, making the responsibility a full-time job in its own.
How an EAP Can Help
EAPs are often known for their assistance with work-related issues and HR concerns. What many employees don’t realize is that their EAP can help with their home lives as well, especially for those dealing with Sandwich Generation stress. Here are three ways.
An EAP can provide Sandwichers with several resources they may not have thought of on their own. Between help finding affordable yet reputable childcare solutions to securing caregiving assistance for aging family members, an EAP can help employees focus in the office knowing their loved ones are being properly cared for. This is all done with the employee’s budget in mind.
An EAP can help on an individualized level when it comes to managing schedules and responsibilities. They can help an employee develop new management skills and learn how to better prioritize their responsibilities. An EAP can also help them learn how to set healthy boundaries and protect their time.
The strain of caregiving can be detrimental to mental health. An EAP can help employees develop coping skills and build resilience for when their responsibilities get to be too much. They can also provide coaching on how to approach difficult scenarios or topics with aging parents (e.g. financial issues or declining health).
Alice went to her EAP for help. After learning about her unique situation, she was matched with a caregiver for her mom who can take her to her necessary appointments while Alice is at work. She was also matched with a nanny who can get her kids to their after-school commitments, which allows Alice to spend a bit more time at the office. Her work doesn’t follow her home nearly as much and she’s able to enjoy extra time with her family after work instead of focusing on her inbox. Her EAP also helped her come up with a financial plan that lets her sleep easier at night.
Being a Sandwicher makes it difficult to enjoy time spent with family. But with the help of an EAP, Sandwichers can find balance. Tackling Sandwich Generation stress benefits employers, employees, and families, and should be made a priority in the workplace.