Tender Loving Care

Nannies and Au Pairs Working in the Sandwich Generation Family

We have been discussing nannies and au pairs caught in the middle of a sandwich generation family.

For today’s discussion we will assume that the elderly grandparent requires assistance, but does not require a nursing home environment.

The challenge for the nanny is that the kids and the grandparents have different needs, and sometimes those needs conflict. Consider a simple scenario: The parent and the nanny agree that the 20-month old boy and the five-year old girl are allowed to play in the yard, but are not allowed to watch television.

The elderly grandmother is afraid of falling, so she does not go to the yard. Instead, she spends most of the day watching her shows on cable. Grandma wants to see the kids; the kids want to see Grandma but she will not turn off the television and the kids want to stay to watch soap operas with her.

To follow the parents’ wishes the nanny tries to divert the children to do more productive activities and simply ignore the whining of the children when they are asked to stop watching television. Nannies are used to handling these type of situations with children all day long. But it is more difficult to ask an elderly member of the employer’s family to follow the house rules.

The bigger challenge for the nanny is the different goals in the care for the kids and the elderly grandparent. The contrast is subtle and difficult to sustain.

The children need everything done for them. And the nanny has to provide it all. Grandma may need assistance but the nanny must be certain not to do so much for her that the elderly grandparent becomes dependent on the nanny. Instead, the assistance should be tailored so the grandparent retains or increases the ability to be independent.

Therefore, the challenges of caring for both generations can make it seem as though nanny has two full-time jobs while being paid for one.

Plus, nannies are hired and trained to work with children. They are not typically trained in geriatric care.

Nannies are expected to be an expert in childcare, a chef, tutor, maid, psychologist, and physical therapist. But in the sandwich generation family, the definition of ‘nanny’ can expand to mean everything to everyone all the time, which can create much resentment for the childcare provider.

Do you have any advice for nannies stuck in the middle of a sandwich generation family?


  1. I know you say that the grandmother does not require medical assistance but it is unfair to add the extra workload he childcare provider. The added dishes, laundry, and attitude and of the grandparent would make allowing the grandparent to live in the house my nanny job too much to bear with. I would look for a new job.Colleen, Naperville IL

  2. The grandparent must follow the parent’s wishes (the granparent’s child) because the grandmother is living in her child’s house. She has to respect the rules of the house. The grandparent should be allowed to watch tv but not when the kids are with her. How hard is it to pull out a board game? She does not have to walk or fall to play dominoes or Chutes and Ladders. Plus, she can read to the children which will increase her bond with the grandchildren rather than break the house rules. Nannies can provide these suggestions for the grandparent. Nannies can bake and do arts and crafts with the children and invite grandma to join in the activities. The grandmother should be allowed to watch tv but compromise by turning of the tv when the children are bored so they will find more productive activities.Nanny Mindy, Cherry Hill NJ

  3. Grandparents can do plenty with their grandchildren in ways that promote the their relationship. What about joking and kidding, giving advice, discussing problems, going to church or synagogue, taking a day trip, baking or cooking, telling stories, or teaching a skill or game.

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