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6 Tips to Handle Stress If You’re Part of the ‘Sandwich Generation’

Mental Health
Author name: Lisa O'Neil, System Director, Marketing & Brand Management

Sandwich Generation GraphicDo you ever feel like you have been “sandwiched” between caring for your parents and children? The double burden of caregiving for both your older and younger loved ones may have you wondering, “But what about me?”

In 1981, social worker Dorothy Miller coined the term "sandwich generation” to describe adult children, sandwiched between their aging parents and their own children, who face great stress by caring for both generations.

“To understand the sandwich generation, one must see that the struggle to balance love and obligation to both parents and children is perhaps the greatest challenge facing middle-aged parents,” says Paul Simeone, Ph.D., vice president, Lee Health Mental and Behavioral Health.

“The stresses are many and endlessly tangled up with one another, where financial worries, family dynamics, and personal and relational identities and demands place relentless, often long-term burdens on all involved.”

Simeone offers six tips to help during this challenging season in our lives:

  1. Accept your situation – and the range of emotions that go with it – and don’t expect you’ll be able to do or be all things to all people. Don’t try to be heroic, just human. Maintaining perspective is critical.
  2. Treat parents and children as partners in the intergenerational task of caring for all as one, making reasonable plans, adjusting as needed, and asking others to be accountable to the extent they are able.
  3. Remain connected to your partner to reduce the risk of stress affecting your loving relationship. Focus on supporting one another instead of problem solving, because solutions are frequently elusive. Remaining together in the midst of burden is the only “never-fail” strategy.
  4. Share your feelings – the good, bad, and ugly – with trusted friends and confidants. Well-meaning partners are human, too, and can’t always be supportive. Cultivating connections with others you trust will help ease the stress in your key relationships.
  5. Practice and model good self-care. None of us can adequately care for others without taking care of ourselves first.
  6. Pat yourself on the back for loving your family to the best of your ability. Make plans for the future but also stay in the moment. And remember, that this, too, shall pass.