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Family 411: The "Sandwich" Generation

CINCINNATI (Sheila Gray) -- The number of American adults taking care of aging parents has tripled in the last 15 years.
They're commonly called the "sandwich generation." Dr. Rita Watkins' second child just left for college. Her son, Michael, and daughter, Katie, may be gone but they didn't leave an empty nest.

"You just want to grab every moment with your kids, and you realize you just have that narrow window with them," said Dr. Watkins. "It's an emotional roller coaster."

George Watkins lives with his daughter Rita and said, "I keep her employed. She says she can spend all of her time with the family."

Dr. Watkins said she and her husband always had it in their heads that their parents would live with them. Watkins' parents moved into their renovated lower floor this spring. Tom's parents live in the house behind theirs; all four are in their 90's.

"I grew up in a sandwich generation house. I don't think that term for it was invented," Watkins said.

It's not just a term, it's a trend. Nearly half of American adults in their 40's and 50's have kids and a parent older than 65. And one fourth help their parents with personal care or money.

Laurie Petrie of the Council on Aging said opening your home to aging parents is not the best option for everyone. And there's a long list of considerations to make: transportation, meals, who's caring for them, and improvements to the house.

Most seniors want to remain independent. That's no longer possible for Dr. Watkins parents. The Watkins can afford caregivers. That helps Rita and her family, but she admits her social life suffers, and she often feels pulled in too many directions.

But she calls this time with her mom and dad a blessing, "When all is said and done, I will take hard work and a little stress over any kind of guilt and remorse that I didn't at least try to do my best and take care of them."

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