The Sandwich Generation


Any parent knows that taming an active 2-year-old can be a full-time job. But for Constance Adamapoulos, that's not even the half of it. As CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports, for the last few years, Adamapoulos has also been the sole caregiver for her 86-year-old mother, Johnny, who has memory loss and lives with Constance in her San Francisco home.

Then last year, Constance had to take in her 88-year-old uncle, Jimmy. She says she was spending so much time caring for everyone but her husband that he moved out.

"It's difficult choices to make," says Adamapoulos. "I didn't think this would all happen at the same time."

These days, Adamapoulos' life revolves around the grinding routine of just getting everyone through the day. That means changing three sets of diapers and making sure dozens of pills are taken at the right time — and by the right person — all the while trying to run her business, Organized Chaos Events, from home.

"She's one in a million," says Jimmy. "I don't know how she does everything she does."

For Constance, it's a delicate balancing act.

"We think our parents are always just going to age gracefully and go to the retirement home and die in their sleep," she says.

That delicate balancing act is a familiar one in far more American homes than you might expect. An estimated 16 million Americans — more people than live in all of New England — find themselves "sandwiched" between two generations, struggling to raise their kids while caring for an aging loved one.

That number is about to explode: In 25 years, there will be 60 million Americans between the ages of 66 and 84, many of them needing full- or part-time care.

There are even support groups for people like Constance. Donna Schempp works for one of them, the Family Caregiver Alliance. Schempp warns that taking care of Mom or Dad is becoming a universal issue:

"You either are a caregiver, will be a caregiver or someone will be caring for you between now and whenever you die," Schempp says.

Knowing she's not alone gives comfort to Adamapoulos — but it doesn't lessen her load.

"I try not to let myself think about it," she says, "because I don't know what I'm going to do. I just have to take it day by day."

That's because she has no way of knowing how much longer she can hold herself and her family together.