The Crushing Weight of ‘Sandwich Caregiving’

March 30, 2021

dame magazine

When Sade Dozan discovered she was pregnant, her parents moved closer, with the intention of helping with child care. Dozan says she knew they wouldn’t be able to afford it without a blend of partially paid child care and Dozan’s parents helping for half the week. But in 2018, when Dozan’s daughter was six months old, Dozan’s mother had a heart attack with the baby in her arms. “I went from having someone that was my champion and ready to provide care to me being the sole provider of that care,” says Dozan, now 31. “I went from being a parent to a sandwich-generation caregiver overnight.”

While there is variance depending on circumstances and familial construct—some individuals described having a child in their mid-20s and stepping in to care for a parent, sibling, or grandparent—sandwich-generation caregivers are predominantly Generation X, with the typical profile of a sandwich caregiver, according to Caring Across Generations, being 41 years old on average and born between 1965 and 1980. This group was sitting at the intersection of multiple crises before the coronavirus pandemic, and now, lack of institutional support for child care, workplace flexibility, and health insurance have exacerbated profound needs and deficits in how familial structures are supported. And at the center, there’s a larger question about who is tending to the emotional and economic support of sandwich caregivers themselves.

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