Are You the Middle of a Triple Decker Sandwich?

Many baby boomers have grown to think of themselves as part of what has been termed the “sandwich generation”, caring for their aging parents or grandparents and their children at the same time. Calling that simply a sandwich overlooks a very important part of the equation, unfortunately the same part many boomers overlook — yourself.

Sharing information about the Triple Decker Sandwich Generation is an attempt to get boomer caregivers to realize the portion of the sandwich in the middle needs care as well. So often we find family caregivers putting their own needs on hold to address the sometime overwhelming needs of their children and senior loved ones.

No one in the multiple layers of the sandwich benefit when a caregiver ignores her or his own needs to focus totally on the needs of others. For some reason, though, we have been taught to feel like we’re being selfish when we think of ourselves. Just the opposite is true however.  When we take time to take care of ourselves, we put ourselves in a better position to give our best to others.

What happens when you shove your needs aside for too long? There are many reports of stress related disease and depression among boomer caregivers. Certainly being the middle “deck” of the sandwich can contribute to that. Focusing on the health care needs of others but ignoring your own can have serious consequences, especially for those entering a time in their lives where medical visits should be growing more – rather than less – frequent.

Being a Caregiver to Yourself

Taking care of that middle deck of the sandwich doesn’t mean simply looking after yourself, but those aspects of your life that are also necessary to your well being.

  • caring for a relationship with a spouse, partner or friends who help complete your life
  • putting appropriate focus on the job that provides the income needed to support the other aspects of your life (and hopefully some fulfillment)
  • hobbies, sports or other activities that let you get away from the rest of your life for a while
  • anything other aspect of your life that is important to you and allows you to decompress

The first step in caring for the middle deck of your family sandwich is to recognize that you and your needs are important and need to be met. Take some time for yourself and think about those needs putting plans in place to address them, just as you do to meet the needs of your children and senior loved ones for whom you care.

How do you care for yourself and your needs when it already feels like there are too few hours in each day? Can you substitute technology for some of the effort you put in already? There are a growing numbers of devices and programs that bright people have developed to meet the needs of people like you. There might just be an app for that!

In order to fully care for yourself to care for your family, you have to give yourself permission to put yourself in the sandwich instead of on the side of the plate. Some days will be harder than others to find time for your needs, but don’t give up. You will feel stronger when you have met your needs and be more able to be a loving and competent caregiver to the rest of the sandwich layers in your life.

We would love to hear how YOU care for the middle of your Triple Decker Sandwich so we can learn from each other.

13 thoughts on “Are You the Middle of a Triple Decker Sandwich?”

  1. Thank you Bruce for your insight into my mind. I say it everyday – with 2 kids still at home, my father having Alzheimer’s and trying to run my own business – I really feel like a turkey on rye sometimes. What’s funny is that I had completely forgotten the ‘center bun’ until I saw your article. I work in the Reverse Mortgage business so I am always talking to professional caregivers, family members and seniors and what I see consistently is that the family caregiver is the one always left out of the question “what can we do to make him/her feel more comfortable and secure?”. It is not deliberate or offensive, it just is.

    Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge the center bun!


    • Thank YOU for making my day, Beth! This is why we are doing this, to support you and the millions of others whose needs are often overlooked — including by themselves — in their selfless approach to making better the lives of loved ones. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

      We wish you well in all you are doing!

  2. Powerful post for an important topic that will be great learning and information on #DadChat. I also believe that single parents – especially single moms – tend to become martyrs for their children and horribly neglect their own needs. Add needy parents into the equation and the single parent is truly lost.

    #DadChat is tomorrow – Thursday – from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., PST and is always open to moms and dads – aunts/uncles too for that matter!

    • Looking forward to the discussion, Bruce. You have gotten a lot of great people involved in #DadChat and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say — which is the case every week!

  3. This will be an interesting topic. My mom had to deal with this for a couple of years. Not sure what that will look like as I get older and my kids graduate college and can’t afford to pay for their loans!

    • Thank you for your comment, Mimi! This is so tough for many of us to handle because we don’t want our loved ones to face difficulties. I hope things will look good for your kids and they’ll be able to pay for the lives they want and their loans!

  4. Nice to “meet” you at Twitter’s #ElderCareChat. Great article! It’s definitely a constant challenge. My best help is God! LOTS of prayer involved! 🙂 Have a great day!

    • Hi Kaye, I am glad you enjoyed the post. So often caregivers are so busy with the needs of others, they overlook their own needs. Hopefully, reminding people to focus on themselves to be the best caregiver possible will help someone. It was great “meeting” you too, the chat is always informative and I am happy to get the opportunity to join too! I hope you will continue to stop by the site and read the info we share!

  5. Thank you for this article! I happened to stumble upon it a day or so ago and I am really glad I did! I am a child of a baby boomer (the end of the sandwich) who moved back home after college. Around the same time, my grandfather also moved in. So with 3 new tenants (including my brother) and a small business to get up and running, I realize that my parents have more than a handful and certainly a full house.

    From a “child’s” perspective, I would like to tell all the caregivers out there that if your child is old enough to help out, don’t be afraid to ask! Personally, helping my parents take care of my grandfather is really rewarding because I know (well, I hope) that my efforts in some way ease the stress my parents feel. Plus, it’s good practice for when I have to take care of my own parents!

    Anyway, if you don’t mind, I would love to share this article on my dad’s business Facebook page. He developed a stove safety device for individuals that want to remain in their home and I think this article will be well received with his Facebook friends!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! We are so glad you stumbled upon us and love that you left your perspective. Hopefully all those in the middle of the sandwich will ask for help when appropriate — and get such a positive response.

      We’re flattered that you’d like to share our post and certainly don’t mind.

  6. Great perspective on all of the issues baby-boomers have to juggle. Having children “boomerang” back into our homes as well as dealing with our aging parents can be quite a burden. It is difficult to handle all of the responsibilities while dealing with the emotional side of possibly losing a parent. I personally deal with my added stressed of caring for my mother and children by setting aside time to meditate each day. Meditation can be a rewarding experience especially when you make it part of your routine. Setting aside 10-15 minutes a day for yourself can be difficult but, it will be rewarding.

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