In the context of Malaysia, conversations surrounding the sandwich generation have become inevitable in most households. But for some, the term is still completely foreign. While the ageing population in the country is a growing concern, the issue behind the increasing sandwich generation has also been on the rise and presents its own unique set of challenges as well.
Who Are The Sandwich Generation?
If there’s a pioneer generation, there’s also the Sandwich Generation. This demographic is made up of middle-aged adults from 40 to 60 years old, who are caring for both their growing children and ageing parents at the same time. While it sure sounds unique, there’s a reason for this apt term.
Just like a sandwich, individuals who fall under this category find themselves caught between the obligation of taking care of their children—who still require emotional, physical, and financial support from their adolescence to early adulthood, and their ageing parents—who may need financial support and assistance with daily tasks due to physical limitations.
From the increasing ageing population to having children at an older age, these different factors have heavily contributed to the sandwich generation phenomenon. It may seem like a simple issue on the surface, but this could have grave effects to our society at large if not dealt with properly and immediately.
Challenges Faced by the Sandwich Generation
Rising Financial Pressures from Two Dependent Generations
Supporting grown children and ageing parents all at once can put a financial strain on middle-aged adults. The standard of living in Malaysia has been increasing and are expected to rise in the next few years. When you’re paying for your own household needs along with your parents’ medical bills and children’s college tuition, it can be a hefty load to carry on your own.
Balancing a Full-time Job with Family Care
Balancing home and work is already a chore in itself. But when you’re raising your own family and caring for an elderly loved one simultaneously, it may result in decreased productivity and employee engagement. If this problem persists and is not taken care of properly, it could have a negative impact on all aspects of your life from your work performance, the relationship you have with your children, and the quality of care you are giving your ageing parents.
In order to achieve a certain balance between work and caregiving responsibilities, you may consider discussing flexible working options with your employers in order to be near your parents and your children. Another alternative would be to hire part-time caregivers for your loved ones so you can have peace of mind while you are away at work.
Negative Impact on One’s Mental Health
Due to filial obligation and added responsibilities, those in the sandwich generation will inevitably go through greater emotional distress as a result. In a study conducted by the University of South Carolina on the challenges and coping strategies of sandwich generation caregivers, they are at risk of potential mental health conditions brought about by increased caregiver stress and even heightened intergenerational conflict.
Delayed Plans in their Personal Life
It is easy to get caught up in your caregiving duties and put your family’s needs above your own. Although the short-term benefits may seem worthwhile, it can easily lead to burnout and lack of fulfilment when putting personal plans on hold and not making enough time for yourself. Make sure that you are constantly giving yourself the time to take a break and do things that you want to do.
During this time, not only will you feel mentally and emotionally recharged but it can also give you a fresh perspective on how to develop better ways of caring for your loved ones.
Why is it important to be the last sandwich generation?
Over the years, we have seen bleak outcomes from this socio-economic issue, proving the need to break out of this cycle. This is no longer just about middle-aged adults getting out of it, but also ensuring that their children and the future generations to come do not go through the same fate. Not only will there be a financial burden on their shoulders, but it will also be mentally and emotionally taxing as well.
We are living in a time where information is abundant. With these resources, we can better equip ourselves with ways to financially prepare for providing for both our ageing parents and growing children.
How can we be the last sandwich generation?
For most of us, it is common to want to be filial towards our parents, give the best for our kids, and also achieve a certain living standard for ourselves, even when we retire. Many question whether it’s possible to achieve all three at the same time considering the day and age that we live in.
As harsh as the reality of it may be, not all hope is lost. In fact, there are practical ways to ensure that we will be the last sandwich generation of our kind.
Talk about Your Finances
Discussing money matters is never an easy conversation to have but can be extremely helpful for families going through this challenge. Part of the stress of being in the sandwich generation is not communicating the financial struggle that’s resting completely on your shoulders. But something as simple as being open about it can lift a huge weight off your chest.
This open communication can help you set boundaries on what you can offer them, which can help to manage their expectations as well. Once you have run the numbers, this will give you a realistic understanding of how to better prepare for your ageing parents’ care plans and children’s futures. If your parents wish to contribute to the expenses, don’t be afraid to receive help from them.
Invest in an Insurance Plan
Securing a suitable insurance plan for you and your family ensures that you are protected from any form of financial hardship during unforeseen circumstances, from accidents to medical emergencies. This gives you an additional source of financial aid as you take the necessary time to recuperate. In the event that something happens to you, your parents and children can still receive the financial support they need.
With enough coverage to take care of your personal obligations and the future living expenses of your loved ones, investing in an insurance plan is a wise decision to make.
Saving for Retirement
Contributing to your retirement plan should be at the top of your priority list, especially if you are taking care of two different generations at once. Starting early gives your money more time to grow and allows you to reap the benefits of compound interest much earlier as well. While it may seem selfish to prioritise your retirement savings above long-term care for your parents, it can save you from passing money problems from one generation to the other.
In turn, this secures your children’s future without leaving them financially stuck as you get older. As much as it is important to safeguard the future of loved ones, recognising your own need to succeed is also essential.
Seek Help from a Caregiver
If you are new to balancing caregiving duties for an ageing parent with your daily responsibilities, you might want to consider getting help from a caregiver. Reaching out to a trained professional for assistance can help you determine the best course of action for your parents’ care plan as they age. However, this doesn’t have to be a full-time or long term arrangement if you don’t want it to be.
If you’re just looking for temporary help, there are also part-time caregivers that can help in specific areas like having a medical escort for doctor’s appointments, performing nursing procedures and preparing meals. It may not be a full-time responsibility, but it’s more than enough to lighten the load and make an impact.
Find the Support You Need
Seeking assistance in helping your elderly loved ones is not a sign of incompetence, inaction, or failure. When the going gets tough, sometimes all you need is an extra hand. Here at Homage, our trained caregivers can assist your ageing parents with home personal care, nursing care and even home therapy. Having these aspects of their daily lives taken care of in their own homes and knowing they are in good hands can give you the comfort and ease you need as you go about your daily responsibilities.
- Grose, J. (2020, February 11). ‘It’s Pretty Brutal’: The Sandwich Generation Pays a Price. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/11/parenting/sandwich-generation-costs.html
- Dermawan, A. (2020) Malaysia must begin addressing issue of ageing population, New Straits Times. Available at: https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/10/636575/malaysia-must-begin-addressing-issue-ageing-population (Accessed: April 22, 2021)
- Patten, K. (2020, July 31). The Sandwich Generation. Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/01/30/the-sandwich-generation/
- Riley, L. and Bowen, C., n.d. The Sandwich Generation: Challenges And Coping Strategies Of Multigenerational Families. [online] Journals.sagepub.com. Available at: [Accessed 5 January 2021].
- Riley, Lesley. (2005). The Sandwich Generation: Challenges and Coping Strategies of Multigenerational Families. The Family Journal. 13. 52-58. 10.1177/1066480704270099.
- Williams, C. (n.d.). Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-001-x/10904/7033-eng.htm