The baby boomer generation is full of "sandwich" people: adults who are caring for growing children and aging parents at the same time. Whether you're caring for parents, children, or both, taking care of others is a lot of responsibility. Sharing childcare or elder care with others is a great way to lighten the load. It can ease your financial burden, free up your time, and help you—and your parent or child—build relationships with others.
Elders and adults with disabilities can also benefit from sharing their own care, whether by joining together to hire an assistant or helping each other with chores and errands. Other sharing arrangements can be tailored for adults with disabilities or elders who can't participate in some of the group's activities. For example, an elder who needs help with home maintenance and repairs could join a home improvement group and, instead of providing hard labor, could offer to pay some of the cost of materials, provide food for all of the work days, or provide other services to group members.
Of course, trusting others to provide care for a loved one—or for yourself—is very different from sharing tools or a car. You'll probably spend much more time choosing your sharing partner(s) and coming up with the terms of your agreement. You'll have plenty of details to work through, from schedules to diets to television rules, and more. You may spend more time meeting or discussing ongoing concerns once your group is up and running, too. But the payoffs for the time and effort you put into planning and maintaining your arrangement are enormous.
This chapter covers some ways to share childcare. It also discusses care of elders and adults with disabilities, whether that care is arranged by a family member or by the person receiving care. And, we explain some options for sharing the responsibility of caring for that other important member of your family: your pet.