Things were hard enough for Jennifer Galluzzo before the pandemic hit. Four years ago, the full-time working mother of three became a full-fledged member of the “sandwich generation” when her father-in-law joined their household in Brewster, N.Y. But things got harder in March, when schooling for her three children, ages 5, 8 and 10, abruptly went online in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Galluzzo, a digital marketer, and her husband, David, a lawyer, started working from home. Her child care disappeared, as did her cleaning help.
Her father-in-law, who has Parkinson’s and dementia and is used to spending most days quietly at home with his caregiver, was increasingly agitated by the full house. “He doesn’t like loud noises, and we were all here 24/7,” says Galluzzo, 46. “I had Zoom calls. My husband had Zoom calls. Someone needed to make sure the kids got their work done. I had a schedule that didn’t work very well—it was more about who needed what fire to be put out at that moment.”
Galluzzo had thought her father-in-law’s stay at their house would be temporary, lasting only until they could figure out their next steps. That is typical—and usually wrong, says Chris Cooper, a certified financial planner in California who often consults on the needs of the elderly and disabled.
Families “start out thinking they’ll take care of Mom for a year or two,” says Cooper, “and 10 years later they are still together.” Such situations can lead to divorces, family estrangement and financial devastation, he says.
"For most older Americans, care will come from unpaid family members or friends, who contributed around $600 billion worth of free labor to the...