4 Ways to Survive the Sandwich Generation Years
Are you juggling caring for an aging parent with caring for young children? If you feel pulled in many directions, you’re not alone. Research from the Pew Research Center revealed that 1 out of every 8 Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 is raising a child while caring for a parent. We call them Sandwich Generation caregivers.
22 million Americans struggle every day to balance these two caregiving roles. Many do so in addition to working at least part-time outside the home. While you do your best to make things work, there’s no denying a day in the life of a member of Sandwich Generation can be stressful.
What can you do to successfully manage all these responsibilities?
We have a few tips to help.
Survival Tips for Sandwich Generation Caregivers
- Manage Your Expectations: This can be a difficult one for caregivers to do, but it is important to try. Accepting that you cannot be everything to everyone is the best way to set more realistic expectations for yourself. You might have to turn an annual Memorial Day party in to a potluck and ask everyone to pitch in. Or buy cookies from a local bakery instead of making them yourself for the church Mother’s Day brunch. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that a few short-term changes are necessary right now.
- Ask for and Accept Help: Adult children often believe it is their obligation to handle all their aging parents’ needs independently. While it is a noble goal, it isn’t a very realistic one.
When friends and family offer to run an errand or pitch in to help, accept their offer. It will allow you to stay healthy and family and friends will feel as if they are doing something meaningful to support you.
If you don’t have anyone close to you who can help out, there are other avenues for support available. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see if they know of respite services or call your church to find out if there is a volunteer-based friendly visitor program. Assisted living communities also offer short-term respite stays that benefit both the senior and the caregiver.
- Get Organized: The sheer volume of paperwork you are likely coping with from juggling your children’s needs with those of an aging parent is no doubt overwhelming.
One of the best ways to feel more in control of your many responsibilities is to take time out to get organized. It might be by setting up a “Command Center” in your kitchen where everyone’s schedules are written on one large calendar or by taking advantage of mobile apps and online scheduling systems. Feeling confident that you are on top of the day’s events can help reduce your level of stress.
- Take Care of You: Too often sandwich caregivers put their own health last. They skip routine health screenings and let a healthy diet and exercise program slide. Over time it can put you at risk for problems like heart disease, depression, and diabetes. That’s why it’s essential to tend to your own physical and mental health. Remind yourself that if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care for everyone who is depending on you.
We hope these tips help you care for your parents, your children, and yourself as you navigate your way through the Sandwich Generation years.