According to the Office for National Statistics, around 1.3 million people in the UK are “sandwich carers”, not (as the name suggests) tasked with overseeing lunchtime, but instead with responsibility for looking after both sick, disabled or elderly relatives and at the same time dependent children. If we broaden the term to include those who are not just physically caring for relatives, but also those who find themselves financially supporting both older and younger generations (including supporting adult children or looking after grandchildren) then the number of people in this category is significantly higher.
The current restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will only heighten this strain, as the sandwich generation may find the value of their “nest eggs” has fallen, their children are suddenly unemployed and the economic outlook is currently uncertain.
Life in the middle of the sandwich can be difficult, with carers finding they have little time to themselves, and possibly having to give up a career in order to look after their relatives. Here are some ideas which may be of some help for those in this position:-
Support network – having a support network in place will be invaluable. It might be impossible just now to meet up with friends and family, but it is a good idea to embrace technology and make the most of friends being at home, with more availability to catch up.
Seek external help – the local authority’s social work department or a charity specialising in support for the elderly or disabled might be able to provide some physical assistance, if not now, then when travel restrictions are lifted. There are also a variety of charities adapting to the current situation to provide support to carers through technology.
Plan ahead – although it’s not particularly pleasant to consider, it’s important carers think about what financial support would be provided for if something were to happen to them. Is there a Will in place? If so, does it appoint guardians to children? Will someone else step in to care for elderly or disabled family members? Are there provisions (for example a trust arrangement) in place to protect an inheritance that might pass to a young or otherwise vulnerable beneficiary? Is there life assurance in place to offer financial security to dependants? It is also a good idea to check any pension death benefit or death in service nominations are up to date.
Power of Attorney – if elderly relatives still have capacity, they might be minded to grant a Power of Attorney authorising someone to help them out with their finances, for example with operating a bank account or managing their investments.
If the family member’s health deteriorates at a later stage and an individual has already been appointed as a Welfare Attorney under a Power of Attorney, it will be much easier for them to be involved in decisions regarding their health and care than otherwise.
Flexible working – if those with care responsibilities are still working, they have the right to request flexible working. They may already be working from home but employers may be agreeable to adjusting start and finish times. Being a sandwich carer is hardwork, and is especially so in these challenging times but support is out there. We want to help you, so, please get in touch.