Adult Children of Seniors: Advocating for the Sandwich Generation

It was 10:40 a.m. on a normal Tuesday. I was about to exit the parking area from a medical office building adjacent to a local hospital. While at a stop sign, I felt something was a bit off.

caregiving for elderly parents, raleigh-durham, N.C.What I saw coming toward me was, at first thought, unusual, and, in retrospect, a bit of a phenomenon. Car after car was turning in to find parking. Because they would slow I could then see the occupants. Time after time, I noticed that the driver was a middle-aged woman. In the passenger seat beside her was an older adult. I watched seven cars turn in, all fitting this same description.

Performing a U-turn I re-entered the parking area myself. I walked back to the parking entranceway where the cars were turning in from the street, compelled to confirm what I’d seen. Why was this calling me?

I watched another round of cars. Several entered, and the drivers? Yep, women, and the passengers were nearly always older adults. Deciding that a rather scientific approach might be in order, I remained there, vigilant, for the next 40 cars. Due diligence. Drivers and passengers.

I named my little study “Driving while Sandwiched.”

A few times I could clearly see a family resemblance. These drivers could likely be Adult Children driving their parents to medical appointments. Or they could be paid caregivers or neighbors.

As I waited, my thoughts wandered.

It’s Tuesday at 10:40 a.m. I wonder if those Adult Children of seniors have jobs. Have they taken time off from work? Might this be another accommodation from a less-than-family-friendly work environment? Are they therefore burning a candle at both ends? Will this interfere with their continued employment, and threaten their income and benefits? Have they been made to choose, or gamble, by their task?

I would hope that their employer had flexibility at the place of work and communicated to employees that time away from their job would not be a threat to their (continued) employment. Perhaps there was safety made possible by a PTO (Paid Time Off) policy that accommodates time away from work for planned and even unplanned absences to use when needed. I hoped that if the drivers were Adult Children of aging parents that they were not automatically swimming upstream all day, every day by virtue of their being a member of the Sandwich Generation.

Have the Conversation: Adult Children of Seniors Need Options

Here is another great need, America— a need to HAVE THIS CONVERSATION. As our aging population grows, employers need to HAVE THE CONVERSATION among themselves and to make an employee’s ability to care for aging family members part of the company values. Those values can be displayed by planning for and building flexibility into the company’s standard operating procedures. And like any good business owner there should be contingency plans, coverage for any unplanned circumstances. That’s just good business savvy.

Legislators and insurers would do well to continue to HAVE THIS CONVERSATION and act on this, and we don’t need to go into all the reasons why that’s the right thing to do. Populations are aging. Sandwichers are here, and they are swimming. Folks need transportation –a driver whose work is interrupted but for a few hours –to get their loved one to health care appointments.

All of America needs to HAVE THIS CONVERSATION. This act of caring for family members must be made more normal, anticipated, perfunctory. We need employers who “get it,” and we need access to medical care to extend beyond the classic 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Our (unyielding) medical service delivery system could HAVE THE CONVERSATION and consider how to better grant (did I just say grant? Because it seems that is what they are doing — granting) access to consumers.

Part of advocacy to me is to see an unmet need and work to provide equal access. To make it all normal we must sometimes change what is normal. And it’s not going to become normal unless we talk about it and bring it to that point.

It is so interesting what we see when we simply keep our eyes open. We stand to learn so much. I regret that my seeing the Adult-Child-as-driver with Older-Adult-as-passenger appeared as unusual to me to begin with.

Next week I am going to spend some more time observing. It helps me to become a better Advocate and a better person.


NAVIGATE NC helps families Have The Conversation, among themselves and also with their Team: medical providers or trusted Legal and Financial advisors, and more. We offer FREE telephone consultations by appointment. Call (919) 628-4428 to schedule or CONNECT WITH US by visiting our our website.

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