Helping Your Sandwich Generation Employees

Posted on December 30, 2014 by VITAL WorkLife

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What would you do if you encountered these situations?

  • You have a project that's due today and you're wondering how you're going to get it done. Your phone rings at 11 am and it's your son's school. He's got a sore throat and needs to be picked up and taken home—or to a doctor for a throat culture. A few minutes later, your father's caregiver calls and tells you your father fell down, and now seems confused and unsteady.
  • Or, less dramatically, your boss has asked you if you can stay late. But, your daughter has a varsity volleyball tournament and your mother needs to have an ingrown toenail trimmed because it's causing her pain.
  • You and your spouse are long overdue for a vacation. You're perpetually fatigued and wondering if you are, perhaps, becoming depressed. However, you have one child in college and another who will be next year, so there are tuition bills to pay. Plus, your elderly parents are living on a fixed income and are having a hard time making ends meet, and have asked for some assistance. You're wondering how you can continue contributing to your retirement account, much less spend money on a vacation.

These are the kinds of dilemmas facing many of your employees. They're likely members of what is called the "Sandwich Generation."

Realities of the Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation—if you have at least one parent age 65 or over, and are raising children and/or financially supporting a grown (18+) child, you're part of it. The term, coined in 1981 by Dorothy Miller, a social worker, originally referred to women, generally in their 30s and 40s, who were "sandwiched" between young kids, spouses, employers and aging parents. Over time, while the underlying concept has stayed the same, the demographics have expanded to include both men and women, and a larger age range as childbearing is sometimes delayed, grown children move back home more frequently (or never leave) and parents are living longer.

As a societal phenomenon, being a member of the Sandwich Generation is increasingly recognized—and also linked to higher levels of stress, financial uncertainty, and downstream effects such as depression and greater health impacts that caregivers are known to suffer.

How You Can Help

The employee newsletter that we sent this month goes into detail about the multiple impacts on the Sandwich Generation, and highlights the importance of getting help—and practicing good self-care—without feeling guilty and before things become totally overwhelming. Because the consequences can be so far-reaching, it's critical that your employees take advantage of the many resources available through their EAP—and understand that they're free and just a phone call away. We encourage you to use the poster and flyer attached to this newsletter to promote these benefits. (For those with the Complete plan, your printed posters and flyers will arrive in the next few weeks; if you have any questions about them, please feel free to contact your VITAL WorkLife account manager).

By having a greater understanding of what is likely to affect at least 50% of your employee population at any given time—with resulting impacts on their health, productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism—you'll be better able to ameliorate the effects and promote greater employee well being, not to mention your organization's bottom line. Promoting your VITAL WorkLife EAP resources is a great way to provide tangible assistance to employees who are truly caught in the middle and are struggling.

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