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The Sandwich Generation – caring for wingmen in between

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- It’s a weekday afternoon. Thanks to an old running injury, I am at home recuperating from knee replacement surgery. An otherwise quiet day is frequently interrupted by the melodic tone signaling yet another incoming text message. 

 

Without checking the sender, I am relatively certain the topic of the text will focus on my immediate concerns: the emergent need to quickly place my 87-year-old mother in a memory care facility, the complicated, out-of-state sale of her former home, or the rapidly approaching release of my young adult daughter from inpatient treatment. I am the daughter selected to be the durable power of attorney; I am a caring, concerned mother. So even as I put myself through the paces of my physical therapy exercises, I key in responses destined to alter the courses of my mother’s and daughter’s futures. Finally it appears that the “fires” have been doused. I am relieved, while simultaneously consumed with guilt.

 

Welcome to a typical day in the life of a member of the “sandwich” generation.  

 

If you aren’t familiar, the term “sandwich generation” refers to the 7-10 million adults who provide long distance care for an aging parent. Alternatively, it includes the 2.4 million adults who are providing care for both a child and a parent. Thus, they are “sandwiched” between effectively managing their own personal, occupational, financial and life demands, supporting minor or adult children, while struggling to ensure the health and safety of their declining parents. To grasp the enormous impact and scope of this “sandwich” status, consider the following:

  • The “traditional” sandwich generation is comprised of those adults typically in their 40s and 50s who are caring for or assisting their aging parents while raising their own children.

  • The “club sandwich” adults are in their 50s and 60s, simultaneously caring for aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s struggling to care for young children, aging parents and/or declining grandparents

  • An estimated 2.4 million grandparents are currently raising first-hand their 4.5 million grandchildren.

As an effective leader, it’s critical to recognize and become familiar with those individuals in your squadron who are struggling with these life stressors. From the anxious student providing her extended family necessary financial support to the Airman juggling that fragile balance of work, children and parents to the seasoned Airman opting to delay retirement in order to raise his grandkids, the need for external support has never been greater. Your knowledge of relevant, accessible resources and the willingness to approach those in need can be a life-changer.

 

Here are some key sources of support for your sandwich generation available to active duty and Reserve Citizen Airmen at Keesler:

  • Mental Health Clinic - For members struggling with anxiety, adjustment issues, grief, depression, and more. Contact your respective Mental Health liaison for squadron-specific support, or call 228-376-0385.

  • Family Advocacy - For resiliency and life skills-strengthening classes and training. Classes include emotion regulation, parenting, couples counseling, new parent guidance and support, and much more. Call 228-376-3459.

  • Worklife4you - For base civilian employees seeking information and support for personal life issues. 1Call -800-222-0264.

  • Keesler AFB app - An abundance of information on useful services, helping agencies, and 403rd Wing information.

Remember, it takes time and energy for overwhelmed Airmen to ask for help, two factors already in critically short supply. So instead of waiting to for them to ask, meet them where they are. Seek them out, share knowledge and let them know you care. For even more information on resources for your squadron’s Sandwich Generation, call Paula Spooner at 228-376-3459.