'In today's society the sandwich generation is growing'

A generic stock photo of a woman using a mobile phone in central London.

The phone call can be about your parents, children or both - Credit: PA

My parents are in their mid-80s. They have increasing medical and general care needs which my brother and I share between us.

As we both still have a school-aged child, this inevitably means the care needs of our parents and children sometimes clash. My brother and I are part of the ever growing "sandwich generation" – so called because we are the filling holding the two slices of bread together.  

But this is no picnic. A few weeks ago, I had a panic inducing series of missed calls from my father’s carer and my daughter’s school nurse (both of these only call in an emergency). 

Shelley-Anne Salisbury

Shelley-Anne Salisbury is part of the ever-growing Sandwich Generation - Credit: 1000words.co.za

I didn’t know who to call back first. A strange kind of paralysis set in. A follow-up call from the school nurse galvanised me back into action. My daughter had had another major nosebleed and my father sounded like he had a recurrent chest infection. Calls to both paediatric and geriatric doctors were made. Things were finally sorted – on both fronts - but was all pretty exhausting. 

My brother and I are certainly not unique. A friend told me how she had recently taken her octogenarian mother to have her dentures repaired and her teenage son to have braces fitted in simultaneous appointments at the same dental practice. She said it made logistical sense but admitted it was all a bit surreal. Another friend divulged how her 13-year-old daughter and 89-year-old father (who now lives with them) have similar food fads. They both eschew green vegetables and have to be coaxed to eat them at mealtimes. Sometimes they put up a united front which, my friend assured me, was not as funny as it sounded. 

The Sandwich Generation is expanding. Medical advancements and better living conditions have meant we are living longer, whilst career opportunities for women have progressively contributed to delays in starting a family. The likelihood of having young children at the same time as senescent parents, both requiring physical and (now more than ever) mental health support, is high. 

Whilst we are nurturing our pubescent children in a challenging world, with all the demands of being a teenager (and often beyond ), many of us are also looking after our own aging parents as they face different but equally disconcerting life changes. No wonder we feel squeezed in the middle. 

Shelley-Anne Salisbury is a mediator, writer and the co-editor of Suburb News, themediationpod.net