The Nanny or Au Pair in the Middle of the Sandwich Generation

How Widespread is the Situation?

This is the first of a series of discussions regarding the nanny and her role in the “sandwich generation family.”

“Sandwich Generation” refers to parents who are responsible for their own parents, or elderly relatives, in addition to their own children. Definition at:

Do not confuse the “sandwich generation family” with the concept of an “extended family.” In a sandwich generation family, the parents (who employ the nanny) are financially responsible for the care and upkeep of dependent children and for the care and upkeep of their elderly parents.

In contrast, in the extended family, the elderly relatives are a vital part of the family unit, essential to the care of the children and the house.

The challenges of the sandwich generation family are increasingly examined in the media as this type of living arrangement seems to become more common. The focus in the media is predominantly on those who are providing the financial resources — the young parents — and the elderly parents requiring care.

Media discussions about the sandwich generation living arrangements assume that the young parents are the primary caregivers. But the parents/caregivers may not be able to afford to stop working, especially during an economic recession. And, as longevity has increased, the expense of nursing facilities has outpaced return, if any, of investments.

Based on anecdotes from nannies and an awareness of how some parents respond to problems, many nannies are asked to assume at least some of the responsibilities of care for the elderly parent that lives in the home where the nanny works. We are not sure of the extent of this living arrangement and what percentage of nannies are involved.

As we examine some of the problems and challenges faced by nannies working for sandwich generation families, we want to hear from you about your experiences.

Do you work as a nanny or au pair in a home where the grandparent lives and needs care too?

Tuesday: St. Patrick’s Day Activities
Wednesday: Sandwich Generation Discussion Continues About Emotional Attachment.


  1. Although the family I work for is not a sandwich family generation, the elderly grandmother of the family I work for doesn’t live in the home where I work as a live-in nanny, but she is living in a hospital setting close to the home. It is the extended family that keeps staying over at the house I work and live in, when they come to visit the grandmother, who is gravely ill. With Uncles and Aunts and cousins constantly visiting I feel like I am the hostess. It’s hard work. I understand why they need to stay (rude to send them to a hotel) but my workload is much increased. The Aunt and Uncle parents say “You don’t have to make breakfast for our kids.” Huh? I have to feed my charges and I am not supposed to make breakfast for them too? Doesn’t make any sense. Clean up after them is difficult too. They try not to impose, but it is exhausting.But by far the most difficult issue is that the Uncles and Aunts unintentionally undermine my discipline and schedule. They feed their kids differently, have a different schedule, and make comments on how to punish and reward the children I am hired to care for. I find myself constantly saying “I do what the parents tell me to do.”I completely understand their need to come stay. Everyone is doing their best but it is frustrating and exhausting to say the least. And no, I am not paid more for the extra dishes, clean up, hassles. But couldn’t accept extra either.

  2. The grandfather with dimentia and has hospice care just moved in my employer’s home. My biggest obstacle is the home health aides that come in to work with the grandfather. It’s so many different nurses changing day by day because they change staff coming in and out. Every day they think it will be his last and there is much crying and stress in the home. I am doing my best to respect the family. I try to take the kids out of the house as much as possible. The mother is always crying. It is a difficult situation for everyone.

  3. When grandparents visit it is always stressful.Of course the grandparents would never want to impose, but that’s all they do. I end up driving the grandma to the store and doctor when I am the nanny hired to work with children. Nannies must be assertive and only add on extra chores or responsibilites with extra compensation.Nanny Heather, Houston Texas

  4. This has just happened to the family I work for and it’s been a very difficult situation for everyone.My mom boss’s father recently died and the frail grandmother has just moved into the home I work in. She ought to be in a nursing home with constant medical attention but the father wanted her to be with family as long as possible.I feel like my world has turned upside down and I’m just the nanny. I can’t imagine how the parents I work for must feel. They are trying to respect the grandfather’s wishes by caring for his wife with but they work full time and aren’t around to care for the grandmother anyway.Luckly, the parents I work for as a nanny have hired home health aides that come in each day to help care for the physical needs of the grandmother. But, that is stressful too. I have to be home at certain times to allow the home health aides in. Plus, I feel obliged to talk to her and bring her a drink of water or change the tv channel if she wishes. I don’t want to ignore the grandmother, but the kids and I are so busy too. We skipped many activities at first to get acclimated and meet the nurses and so on…I have not complained to the parents. They are tired and emotional wrecks too. But, this wasn’t what I signed up for. I really am not sure how long I will stay because it is so emotionally demanding.Atlanta suburbs

  5. Nannies must take care of themselves. If they do not say “No” to the added responsibilites of helping care for an elderly family member they will burn out.Faith, Dallas, TX

  6. My best advice to nannies is to always have a work agreement at the start of a nanny job. Then when grandma or grandpa move in you can create a separate agreement for duties that involve caring for the edlerly family member. Then if it’s too much work, you can drop the work and they can bring in a home health aide.Melissa Thompson, Arizona

  7. My employers (parents I work for) told me they were going to move the father’s mother (grandmother) into the house after grandpa died. My Dad boss told us he new it would be stressful but his goal was to actually bring a stronger sense of closeness for the family. But grandma has alzheimers and can be very manipulative and cranky at times. I understand it is frustrating being ill. But, when her mood changes she has even cursed in front of the kids. It breaks the parents’ hearts because when she yells or curses it is inappropriate behavior in front of the girls. Meanwhile, the father works twelve hour days and he doesn’t see how difficult caring for grandma is. She hoards food and hides it in her closets and the clutter is out of control. The hardest thing for me is the yelling or cursing, she does this in her room with no one around sometimes and it is scary for me to hear. Threats or explanations of what the house rules are don’t work since she is either manipulative or forgetful. The mother and I cry about it but we finally told the father his mother needs more care than we can offer. She needs to go to a nursing home that has medical care and staff that won’t see her yelling and cursing as an insult but just a symptom of her medical condition. And yes, this is not at all what I signed up for when hired as a nanny for children.

  8. The biggest issue for in-home childcare providers is that the nannies and au pairs are not trained to work in geriatrics. Some childcare providers learn infant and child CPR and First Aid but do not have any medical training in geriatrics. They are not trained in respite care or prepared for the physical and mental challenges.Alicia, Boston Massachusetts

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