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Resources available to guide ‘sandwich generation’ through caregiving role

Jun 29, 2023, 2:23 PM | Updated: 2:24 pm

MIDVALE, Utah — Like any family with teens and young adults at home, the Ormsby home is busy. Between work, classes and activities, finding time to all be together is rare.

Alan and Wendy Ormsby care for not only their children — 21-year-old Max and 16-year-old Lazer — but also their aging parents.

The Ormsby family shares a snack on a busy day.

The Ormsbys are part of the “sandwich generation,” and their caregiving role is becoming a more common one.

About one-quarter of U.S. adults are raising kids while also caring for an aging parent. Those responsibilities can create high levels of financial and emotional stress, especially if the caregiver also has a full-time job.

“Every Saturday, we call my mom and we call Wendy’s mom and just say, ‘Do you need anything? What can we do to help?” Alan Ormsby said.

Both Alan’s mom and Wendy’s mom live independently. But they need occasional help with physical tasks, such as yard care and home maintenance.

Most Saturdays, Max and Lazer accompany their dad to mow and edge his mother’s lawn.

“And spray weeds and make sure everything looks perfect.”

Lazer and Max Ormsby

The caregiving has also been financial. A few years ago, the Ormsbys bought a condo for Wendy’s mom.

Family caregivers spend an average of $7,000 out of pocket each year on caregiving, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving. Sandwich generation caregivers are twice as likely to report financial difficulty than their peers who don’t have children they financially support as well. And more than half (52%) are employed while providing care, which can add additional stress.

“It’s really wonderful that Wendy’s work is very flexible,” Alan Ormsby said. “My work is fabulous about giving freedom and flexibility.”

He knows better than most, as he works with AARP Utah.

“One of the things AARP really advocates for is flexibility within that paid time off so that you can do that caregiving, because it’s a big deal,” he added.

“We’re seeing an increase of caregivers either quitting their jobs, working part time, or trying to juggle the best they can between the two, and it’s really difficult,” said Charise Jensen, program manager of the Caregivers Support Program with Salt Lake County’s Aging and Adult Services.

Charise Jensen, program manager of the Caregivers Support Program with Salt Lake County’s Aging and Adult Services.

Finding advice and support can really help.

“The area agencies on aging are, I think, one of the great secrets that people don’t know about,” Alan Ormsby said.

“Our program is to educate the caregiver on the caregiving process,” Jensen said.

To connect with her office, residents can call 385-468-3200 and talk with an intake person, who can navigate them to the right resources.

“You can call them and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening in my life,’ and they can come out and actually do in-person assessments,” Alan Ormsby said. “They’ll help you figure out Meals on Wheels. They’ll help you figure out respite care.”

“We talk about finances, how to manage a budget. We provide [families] with resources,” Jensen said. “Sometimes, it’s really difficult to know what to do or where to begin. We teach you how to do that.”

The Ormsbys say thinking ahead helps — so does talking about the hard things with both your kids and your parents.

“You have to just say, ‘OK, we need to have this challenging conversation. What can you afford? What can’t you afford?’” Alan Ormsby said.

“What can we afford,” Wendy Ormsby added.

And find a support network. The Ormsbys both have nieces, nephews and siblings who share caregiving responsibilities.

“All of our other siblings’ kids call their grandmas and go and visit and see if grandma needs anything, or takes her car in to get oil changed,” Wendy Ormsby said. “Every single one on both sides of our families are very much a part of it.”

“My kids are really good to me. They’re all so good to me,” Wendy’s mom, Sally Weaver, said.

Sally Weaver, Wendy Ormsby’s mom.

And both grandmas also help.

“We can call them and say, ‘Hey, our daughter needs a ride home from school and we got stuck at work or something. Can you go pick them up?’ And they will,” Wendy Ormsby said.

Making caregiving a family affair.

“We feel like we’re taking care of these two generations, but we couldn’t do it without all of them,” Wendy Ormsby said. “I mean, everybody’s helping each other.”

“Seeing my son and my daughter have a real heart for service – I think that’s really cool,” Alan Ormsby added.

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Resources available to guide ‘sandwich generation’ through caregiving role