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Welcome to the New Sandwich Generation

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GEORGE OSBORNE
PA

The term 'sandwich generation' refers to those who are sandwiched between caring for their elderly parents and caring for their own children. Generally, it means the struggle faced by the middle aged, or those nearing retirement themselves.

There is often a financial burden when there are teenagers at university to pay for, as well as paying for the care of elderly parents. Older people in this situation however have often paid off their mortgages or have seen house prices rise so much over the years they have equity to fall back on, despite this being an unattractive option. What happens if you're younger, have young children, a hefty mortgage and yet still have to pay for your parents?

Increasingly, with women having children in the late thirties or even early forties, there is a new breed of the sandwich generation, and it looks set to stay. An increasing number of people find themselves with toddlers or young children and dependent parents.

My mother had me when she was 40 and I had my two children in my late thirties. My husband became a father when he was 40 also. So now we have two children under seven, but also three parents in their eighties who need our care. To complicate things further, my husband has a brother who is disabled and has always been financially supported by his parents and the money is rapidly running out.

Added to this melting pot, we are both at the prime of our working lives and are trying to run a business which we need to do to create enough wealth to support everyone. We are also mindful that we need enough money to sustain us in our old age, so that we don't become a future burden to our own children. We need to pay off our mortgage before we're too old to work.

The question is, who is responsible for the care of the elderly and disabled? Is it society as a whole or does the responsibility lie with the families of those who need help?

We don't live in a culture where it is the norm for all generations of a family to live together. It's not even usual for families to live in the same town anymore. Also, our parents all value what little independence they have left. They want to stay in their own, familiar homes for as long as they can.

Even if we all lived together would elderly people really want to live in a home with the noise and chaos that inevitably comes with young children?

From my children's point of view I don't think it's a good situation either. I was 10 years old when my mother decided her elderly mother would come and live with us. It was supposed to be a temporary situation but my grandma lived with us for 11 years until she died aged 93.

I loved my grandma very much but living with an elderly person with dementia and incontinence made home life pretty miserable. I couldn't have friends over and we couldn't go out as a family very often. Respite care was minimal and quite frankly a worryingly poor standard.

The only solution is to earn enough to be able to pay for them all to be cared for really well in their own homes. Fortunately at the moment we are just about able to do that, but if our business were to take a downturn... there's a lot at stake.

If, or when, the time eventually comes that they require residential care, we will need to pay for it. At about £800 to £1000 each per week for excellent local care and only part of it covered by social services, this is not going to be easy. They could live in a council run care home, but with scare stories in the press, our lack of trust in inspection reports... well, that's not what we want for our parents.

We do have attendance and care allowance, but it's not enough to cover the real cost of the care that's needed. Our parents have no savings, my mother lives in a rented flat and my husband's parents home needs to be kept as somewhere for his brother to live.

The pressure to make enough money to support everyone, whilst bringing up two young children and running a business is hard. The emotional turmoil of seeing your parents decline is hard enough in itself.

Unfortunately, the increasing numbers of people having children late in life, coupled with cuts in services which will inevitably continue, mean that the new sandwich generation is here to stay.

Sometimes I think those who have their children when they're young are actually the ones who have got it right.

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