If you’ve recently read anything about the growing older adult population – or how children plan to care for aging parents and relatives – you’ve likely stumbled upon the term “sandwich generation.”
No, it’s not a new term. Social workers Dorothy Miller and Elaine Brody coined it in 1981. But there have been recent changes with this group that have senior living providers paying attention.
In this blog, we spell out who these sandwich generation caregivers are, what they look for in senior living, and how operators and communities can meet their needs.
What Is the Sandwich Generation?
Picture this: you’re caring for two generations of family – one older than you and one younger. Both need your guidance. There’s a good chance neither of them is fully independent. And they both rely on you, to varying degrees, for financial, emotional, and physical support.
If this sounds eerily familiar, you probably belong to the sandwich generation, a group of adults who care for both their aging parents and growing children. Seem like a demanding gig? It is. The sandwich generation caregiver is always “on.” They constantly attend to the needs of their loved ones. They rarely have time for themselves. And they’re often forced to sacrifice their own long-term care planning for their loved ones’ well-being.
Here’s the kicker: the sandwich generation is also growing. It’s not entirely surprising, given the rapidly aging population of Baby Boomers. But as the sandwich generation grows, so too will their impact on the senior living landscape. And these caregivers know exactly what they need from senior living providers and the kinds of care their aging family members require.
What Sandwich Generation Caregivers Want from Senior Living
The support that sandwich generation caregivers offer ranges from the acute (helping parents bathe, eat, and exercise) to the more low-key (driving to appointments or covering the cost of certain medications). But each form of support, regardless of acuity, gives the sandwich generation a window into older family members’ preferences, abilities, and habits. And that’s invaluable information when it comes to finding the right senior living option.
With that in mind, here are three considerations sandwich generation caregivers make when evaluating senior living communities.
- The level of visibility into community life. The sandwich generation knows their loved ones’ care regimens and likely live with (or near) them. They don’t want to lose that connection with their aging family members once they move into a community.
- Health and safety commitments. The past three years have redefined health and safety standards in senior living. Sandwich generation caregivers want to know their loved one is somewhere that’s even safer than their own home.
- Life enrichment programming. One thing the sandwich generation can’t easily provide: on-demand, diverse, engaging activities. The more accessible and wellness-focused, the better.
There’s a reason aging in place has become a growing trend. It’s not easy to find the right senior living community. But the sweet spot often lies in communities offering additional forms of support (on-call staff members, engaging life enrichment programs, medical personnel, etc.) while ensuring family members can maintain their connections with each other. After all, intergenerational relationships are important.
The X-Factor for Meeting the Sandwich Generation’s Needs: Senior Living Technology
Beyond having similar considerations for senior living options, there’s something else that many sandwich generation caregivers share: financial strain. In fact, a recent study shows that 66 percent of this population stresses over their ability to meet their family’s financial obligations. Fortunately senior living operators and community leaders can control costs while improving the quality of care with, you guessed it, senior living technology.
For instance, technology like a Bi-Directional Communication Tool doesn’t just help communities schedule and send important announcements, like holiday party invites, to residents and their family members. It also saves staff time. And as our industry continues to deal with the ongoing caregiver shortage, any technology that eases staff workloads can also help keep staff members around. This retention, in turn, helps lower payroll expenses as operators and communities aren’t forced to rely on agency staffing.
But senior living technology can also directly address the sandwich generation’s demands for senior living. Take “level of visibility,” for example. With family engagement platforms, sandwich generation caregivers can…
- Check what events are going on in the community.
- Review which events and appointments their loved ones have attended.
- See community-wide announcements (rate increases, fitness center repairs, flu outbreak numbers, etc.).
- Directly message staff members in a HIPAA-compliant messaging hub with any questions or concerns about their loved ones.
Technology like digital calendars and community engagement platforms also meet caregivers’ demand for stellar life enrichment programming. With the tap of a button on their community engagement portal, residents can RSVP to community events or organize their own. And digital calendars help staff easily plan and run events.
Plus built-in reporting features let staff measure activity attendance and popularity. That’s crucial for the ongoing development of a life enrichment program that delights residents – and families.
Family Members Are Integral Parts of Your Senior Living Community
A senior living community is a literal place, yes, but it’s also a web of relationships that extend from enterprise teams to onsite caregivers to residents to families.
As the older adult population grows, more family members will be having long-term care conversations with aging loved ones. The best communities will support family members before the move-in process and throughout their loved ones’ stay at the community.
Remember, the sandwich generation is made up of caregivers. They know what goes into supporting others. But they need support, too. And the senior living communities that offer it to them on a consistent basis will stand out.Interested in seeing how senior living technology can change the lives of your residents and their families? Shoot us a message!