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'Sandwich' generation feeling squeeze
712,000 of us caring for kids, elderly parents at same time


Canadians providing care for aging parents while raising children the so-called sandwich generation are meeting those challenges through sacrifice to their careers, social lives and overall health, Statistics Canada reported today.

Furthermore, working women are left to shoulder most of the responsibility for elder care devoting more that twice as many hours (29) per month than men (13) in addition to their maternal responsibilities.

According to data collected during the 2002 General Social Survey, 712,000 Canadians between the ages of 45 to 64 had an unmarried child under the age of 25 at home while also caring for a senior.

While the overall number of sandwiched Canadians is relatively small, it's likely to expand in the years to come, said study author Cara Williams.

"The baby boom population is going to age, and that's a large group," said Williams in a phone interview from Ottawa. In addition, lower fertility rates mean fewer adults to care for the elderly. Lastly, people are waiting longer before getting married and having children.

"All of those things together are a good indication that the sandwich generation is likely to grow," said Williams.

Today's release focused on the eight in 10 members of the sandwich generation (589,000 Canadians) that were also holding down jobs in 2002. Williams found that 20 per cent were forced to change their work schedule, 15 per cent had to reduce their work hours, and 10 per cent had lost income in 2002.

On top of that, 40 per cent incurred extra expenses tied to caregiving.

The demands placed on the sandwich generation also elevated stress levels, with some 70 per cent reporting their lives to be very stressful compared to 61 per cent for employed Canadians who cared for neither parents nor children.

Some 35 per cent said that living the sandwiched life meant altering their social schedules, 13 per cent said if affected their sleep patterns, and roughly the same amount said it had an impact on their overall health.

While men took on home maintenance and transportation chores, women shouldered the lion's share of caregiving tasks including personal care such as bathing and grooming, food preparation, and housekeeping.

High intensity caregivers defined as providing more than eight hours of elder care per month reported higher levels of stress, less time to themselves, and greater health impacts than their low intensity counterparts.

Despite the demands of caring for both one's parents and children, 95 per cent of respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied with their lives.

But more than half said they'd appreciate respite from their duties from time to time, while almost the same amount sought more flexible work or study arrangements.