A few weeks ago, I was at a McDonalds PlayPlace with my two grandsons, ages 6 and 11. There were a half-dozen other older caregivers in the room watching the kids burn off some of that Happy Meal energy. When a little girl took a tumble down a slide and cried, “Grandma!” we all rose to our feet to see if it was our grandchild who needed comforting.

Boomers hear a lot about the stresses of the "sandwich generation," caught between caring for aging parents while still raising our own families. Plus, now our parents are living longer, and our kids are having children later, placing this generational caregiving crisis in the midst of midlife.

Some in this demographic take on significant responsibilities as Grandma and Grandpa. As many as 1 in 10 kids in the US are being raised by a grandparent. According to the Census Bureau, more than 2.7 million grandparents serve as primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Another 670,000 do this job while reporting some measure of physical, age-related disability. More grandparents than ever are raising their grandkids.

In some cases, grandparents assist in a positive “takes a village” childcare arrangement, or because one or both parents are deployed in overseas military service. But mostly, grandparents fill in as primary caregivers for their grandchildren when their adult children can no longer parent due to addiction, mental illness, abuse, imprisonment, or other unhealthy lifestyle choices.

In the last year, my husband and I have become part-time caregivers for our grandsons as a result of their parents’ complicated divorce. The experience has opened my eyes to the numbers of children like them, who are now involved in extended family ...

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