Sandwich caring: what you need to know

Head of Research and Clinical Development at Bupa UK
08 September 2016
The number of unpaid carers in the UK is rising. Between 2001 and 2011 the number of unpaid carers rose by 600,000 to an astonishing 5.8 million. Caring for a friend or family member who’s sick, disabled or getting older can be difficult. But there are an increasing number of carers who are challenged with dual caring responsibilities – caring perhaps for their children as well as ageing parents or in-laws. This is known as sandwich caring.
Dad and grandad sat with child

The ‘sandwich generation’

If you’re a sandwich carer, you’re not alone. It’s thought that there are around 2.4 million people in the same situation as you. As a population we’re living much longer and having children much later than we’ve ever done before. This combination has led to what’s called the ‘sandwich generation’ – a generation of people who are taking on this dual caring role.   

The reality of sandwich caring

The reality is that being a sandwich carer is hard. And if you are one, you should be extremely proud of what it is you’re doing. As a sandwich carer, there are lots of things to think about and challenges to overcome along the way. Your home life may be a long way away from your elderly parents that you care for. You may also find that you regularly feel torn over where your priorities lie at any given moment. At times it can be extremely overwhelming. Getting the right support and knowing how best to look after yourself, for your own good and those you’re caring for, is really important.

Coping as a sandwich carer

There are no hard and fast rules to coping as a sandwich carer, but there are things you can do to help you manage your responsibilities. 

  • Make sure you take time to explain the situation to your children. It’s really important that they understand what’s going on. Helping them understand may help you out from time to time – especially when you need a little extra co-operation.  
  • If you have a partner, always remember to be open and honest with them about how you feel. Let them tell you how they feel too. Some challenges are best overcome by talking things through together.
  • Make a point to set aside some quality family time.
  • If you’re caring for a parent (or parents) a long way away, keep a list of key contacts. This may include a neighbour, friend or their GP. If you’re worried that something isn’t quite right, give them a call to put your mind at rest.
  • Plan. Sit down and work out what it is you need to do and organise your time accordingly. You’ll be able to manage your time better and focus on your main priorities for that week.
  • Look after your own health and wellbeing. It’s easy to let this slip to the end of your agenda, but it’s really important. Set aside some time to do something you enjoy, or nothing at all – whatever you do, just make it your own.
  • Don’t be afraid or embarrased to seek support or professional help with either of your caring roles. The Carers UK website is an excellent source of information. It provides information on everything from financial support to practical things like how to find homecare if you need it. If you need help caring for your children, there are lots of childcare options available. You could source a professional childminder or pehaps see if your child’s school has a breakfast or after school club they can attend.
  • Be kind to yourself. At the end of the day, look at the things you’ve done rather than the things you’re yet to do. And always keep in mind that no one is superhuman, being good enough is just fine. 

Other helpful websites 

Paul Edwards
Head of Research and Clinical Development at Bupa UK

What would you like us to write about?


Bupa health insurance

Heart icon

Bupa health insurance aims to provide you with the specialist care and support you need, as quickly as possible. Find out how you could benefit.