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A Delicate Balance

Tips and tools for navigating the challenges of life in the Sandwich Generation

Being a family caregiver is a tough job.

Caring for children is demanding. Caring for aging parents is trying. Caring for both while also trying to balance work and personal life? It’s a difficult position to be in and a place where, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than 54 percent of the population in their 40s finds themselves – the so-called “sandwich generation.”

“It’s one of the hardest times of someone’s adult life – caring for your own children when you’re caring for your aging parent,” says Sarah Stetz, a medical social worker with Dignity Health at Home. “People are trying to manage a full-time job and make sure the kids get to school and extracurricular activities while administering a parent’s medication, taking them to and from doctors’ and specialists’ visits, and handling their safety. They’re tasked with so much.”

The Ahwatukee resident has nearly 20 years of experience as a licensed medical social worker and works closely with those trying to traverse this time of life. “I assist families in navigating the medical system, while providing resources and planning for the future. Social workers can help make the aging process more manageable.”


While it can feel daunting to know where to start, there are many resources available to caregivers to help them navigate every nuanced facet of caring for aging parents.

“I always suggest reaching out to the Area Agency on Aging. They have a program called SAIL – Senior Adult Independent Living – that helps seniors age 60 and older live independently at home,” Stetz says.

Additionally, she personally utilizes the Area Agency on Aging’s 24-Hour Senior Help Line for her patients. “It’s an amazing resource. You can get on a list for housekeeping services, home-delivered meals based on specific diets, and more.”

Caregivers can also connect with a social worker at any local hospital to find out about available resources. “Caregivers can call the main hospital line and ask to be connected to the emergency room social worker,” Stetz shares. “If caregivers have medical or planning questions, there’s someone available. It’s a great free resource.”

Hospice of the Valley offers a program specifically for caregivers whose patients are diagnosed with dementia. This resource is available at no cost to families, and services include 24-hour phone support; home visits with a dementia educator who can help with things like behavior management strategies; and phone access to a nationally recognized geriatrician and dementia doctor.



One of the hardest parts of caregiving is the toll it can take on the caregivers themselves, 71 percent of whom are women.

“There are a ton of support groups for caregivers,” says Stetz. “The Arizona Caregiver Coalition can assist in finding the appropriate support group, depending on the diagnosis of the patient.”

Stetz says while oftentimes caregivers shy away from support groups, many are now offered virtually, which saves the caregiver time. “Knowing that you are not alone in this stage of life is very comforting. Having others in the same situation to connect with is extremely beneficial.”

Locally in Ahwatukee, there is the YMCA’s Outreach Programs for Aging Seniors (Y OPAS), a group of volunteers who provide free support services to seniors and their caregivers. Ahwatukee residents age 65 and older who want to stay independently living at home can receive assistance with grocery shopping and errands, in-person or phone visits, and transportation to and from appointments.

Another way to help alleviate caregiver stress is for other members of the family to help out. Children can make snacks for their grandparents, or even help by making a simple meal.

“It is critical that caregivers are able to care for themselves,” Stetz says. “I always recommend that caregivers continue to take time out of their day for themselves, whether it’s 10 minutes, or two hours. I stress that if they do not care for themselves, they will not be able to care for others.”


Stetz says the best thing one can do for their families is to start early, before stressful medical situations arise. “Prepare your paperwork and future now for your kids. Have a living will, durable power of attorney that allows access to bills and bank accounts, as well as medical power of attorney.”  

If possible, Stetz suggests getting long-term care insurance, which is available to adults aged 60 and above.

Above all, Stetz stresses the importance of planning ahead. “It is so important to get your wishes on paper and document someone as your decision-maker,” Stetz says. “Planning ahead is one of the best ways to provide the family with the support they may need in the future.”



Area Agency on Aging | 602.264.2255

24-Hour Senior Help Line | 602.264.HELP (4357)

Y OPAS | 602.212.6088


Hospice of the Valley | 602.530.6900


Arizona Caregiver Coalition | 888.737.7494