Deakin to skill up sandwich generation to care for young and elderly

The growing membership of Australia's "sandwich generation" are being skilled up by Deakin University experts, supporting them to balance caring for both children and ageing parents.


Deakin has developed a free short online course on the FutureLearn social learning platform, designed to support those caring for older family members, while another course provides new parents with expert advice on infant nutrition.


Deakin School of Nursing and Midwifery Professor Alison Hutchinson, lead educator for Caring for Older People: a Partnership Model, said the program was recognition that looking after an older person could be a challenging experience for family members, friends, care staff and health professionals alike.


"For adult children caring for elderly parents, having their own children to look after as well presents added responsibilities that are often hard to juggle with work and other commitments," Professor Hutchinson said.


"For this group, sometimes referred to as the 'sandwich generation', being able to engage with formal care providers and health professionals in a meaningful way and having a partnership approach to care can potentially help alleviate some of the stress."


Professor Hutchinson said older people often experienced numerous interrelated health issues, which meant the care they required was very complex.


"Older people have typically had rich and fulfilling lives and bring wisdom and experience which should be acknowledged as part of this process. So our course helps students think about things from the older person’s perspective.


"There’s a wealth of information out there about transitioning to this life stage, so it’s important older people and their families are accessing the right advice."


Professor Karen Campbell, lead educator for Infant Nutrition: from Breastfeeding to Baby's First Solids, said there was plenty of varying information when it came to caring for those on the other end of the age spectrum too.


Professor Campbell, a member of Deakin's Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said her short course covered the basics of a baby's diet from birth to one year.


"Most new parents will have conflicting advice coming at them from all directions, and this can be quite overwhelming," she said.


"What we offer in this free two week course is practical, evidence-based information to allow parents the confidence to give their child the best start possible."


Professor Campbell said increasingly parents were juggling a whole host of responsibilities at the same time as raising children.


"Parents might both be working, and while grandparents can often be called on to help, for many families they can also be the ones requiring extra care themselves," she said.


"So when you add this to the concerns we know new parents feel about getting their infant's nutrition right, it can be a very stressful time.


"The great thing about this course is that parents can enrol alongside child care workers, health care professionals and grandparents. And it's a platform where you can talk with other parents who might be facing similar challenges."


Each free course can be completed at the learner's own convenience in bite-sized chunks, and there are no entry requirements. Learners can engage with articles, videos, quizzes and online discussions with educators and fellow students.


As with all FutureLearn courses, the course can be taken for free or there is the option to upgrade to receive additional benefits.


Caring for Older People and Infant Nutrition are available to join now, for more information see


9 September 2017.