The sandwich generation: Realising that Mum or Dad needs help

For many of us, there will come a time in our lives when we come to the realisation that our mum or dad needs more help and care than we can give them. Maybe it’s already happened in your family – maybe you’re in the middle of it right now – or maybe it’s still to come.

Let’s be honest – this can be a very sad time. Our parents were always there for us when we were growing up and throughout our lives, and it can be very difficult to come to terms with the fact that their health is declining.

For many baby boomers, it’s an especially challenging time. This is because they may still be in work and still be providing a degree of care and help to their own children. This is why boomers are sometimes referred to as the “sandwich generation”.

Sadly, this can be a time in which you may feel riddled with guilt and anxiety. Sometimes, our parents don’t want to recognise that their care needs have become significant enough to mean they need round the clock care in a residential aged care facility, and it falls to us to convince them of the need.

That’s why we often feel guilty, because we feel like we’re pushing them to do something they don’t want to do.

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If this sounds familiar, there are four important things to keep in mind.

Firstly, ensuring your parents get the care they need is one of the most important thing you can do for them. When their care needs become too much for you to handle yourself or can no longer be provided at home, the only responsible course of action is to assist them to find the aged care facility that is right for them.

Secondly, aged care isn’t all bad news! In fact, it’s only getting better. I visit aged care homes every week and am constantly impressed by the level of care and support on offer. The standard and quality of care people receive in nursing homes in Australia is increasing every day, providing an excellent quality of life for older Australians. Think yoga lessons, reading groups, happy hour, movie nights, tango classes… these are just some of the activities aged care residents participate in every week across Australia.

Thirdly, you don’t have to go it alone. It’s already an emotional time for you and your family, but to make matters worse the aged care system can be bewildering and confusing. That’s why you might want to consider using support services to help you manage the transition. There are financial planners that specialise in aged care to help you figure out the best way to pay for your mum or dad’s care. There are also placement consultancies that provide case management services to help you manage the whole transition to care for you. If you’re mum or dad is in hospital, there are often social workers who can help you with the move to aged care as well.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the move to aged care can actually be the start of a really positive part of your relationship with your parents. Often in the lead up to the move to aged care, as their health deteriorates, your relationship can become characterised by fear, anxiety and guilt. But once you’ve found them the right aged care home, you can start to focus on the positives again. You don’t have to worry about whether they’re being looked after and if they’re getting the care they need. That will be a huge relief – for both you and for them.


Tell us, did you have to put someone you love in care? What was that experience like?