Sen. Bob Casey aims to ease burden on ‘sandwich generation’
June 30, 2014 11:40 PM
Sen. Bob Casey chairs a Senate Aging Committee hearing to examine the challenges faced by the "Sandwich Generation," at the Allegheny County Courthouse on June 20. The "Sandwich Generation" includes adults who are providing financial and/or physical care for both their own parents and their children.
By Kaitlynn Riely / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tom Moore is a member of what’s become known as the “sandwich generation.”
The 64-year-old Ross man retired two years ago as president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 95. His duties, however, are still full time.
Mr. Moore and his wife must look out for his mother-in-law, who is 88. The couple also have four children, ages 18 to 23, three of whom have special needs, and they care for their 4-year-old grandson so his mother can work.
Being a caregiver to generations on either side of his own can be tiring, Mr. Moore told Sen. Bob Casey during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Aging Committee that the Pennsylvania Democrat led Monday at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
“Two yards to [mow], drives to shovel, houses to clean, extra meals, extra laundry, extra appointments. The extras are never-ending,” Mr. Moore said in his testimony. “The emotional demands and time constraints are harder. If a child has a therapy appointment and gram has a doctor’s appointment, which is more important? Neither can attend an appointment alone.”
For about 90 minutes, Mr. Casey, who said he had convened the hearing in Allegheny County to discuss possible ways to relieve the burden on caregivers, heard about the challenges facing the “sandwich generation,” adults who juggle caring for their parents and their children.
Charles F. Reynolds III, director of the UPMC/Pitt Aging Institute and UPMC Endowed Professor in Geriatric Psychiatry, submitted testimony that 12.9 million Americans have provided care to both adult and child recipients in the past year, providing a sense of the size of the sandwich generation.
Mildred Morrison, administrator of the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, told Mr. Casey that longer life spans have contributed to a 24 percent increase over the past decades in the number of families her agency is assisting in caring for an older relative.
Fifty years ago, the caregiver tended to be a married woman who was a full-time homemaker and whose children were grown. Today, the caregiver is more likely to be a woman who works full-time, whose children were born later in her life and are still home, and the parent is likely to be older and with more health needs, Ms. Morrison said.
“This generation needs respite time, or they become overwhelmed and stressed,” said Sister Barbara Ann Boss, CEO of Elizabeth Seton Center. “An overwhelmed and stressed caregiver is not able to give quality care to parent or child.”
In response to Mr. Casey’s question about what would help him in his caregiving efforts, Mr. Moore said more information. He’s found that services are available that can help him and his wife to care for her mother, but finding what those services are took some time.
“There’s help out there; it’s just, you’re inventing the wheel every time,” said Mr. Moore, whose mother now lives at Allegheny County’s Kane Regional Center in Ross.
Mr. Casey said the House and Senate are “just beginning to wrestle with solutions that would provide a measure of relief” to caregivers.
He said he’d introduce legislation this month about creating a “Caregiver Corps,” with training opportunities for volunteers to help with caregiving. He said it would be a “toolkit of approaches to providing that kind of care” discussed at the hearing.
He also cited raising the minimum wage, workforce training and adding more flexibility to work as ways government can help caregivers.
Mr. Casey said he would try to incorporate ideas from Monday’s hearing as “part of a broader strategy” to address the challenge.
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