Millions of people in the U.S. are currently facing the responsibility for caring for their older parents or loved ones, while also raising children of their own.
This group in the middle, which finds itself in the middle of two generations in need of care, has been called the “sandwich generation.” Members of the sandwich generation are in a unique position, one that can bring a lot of stress, as well as many unique rewards.
Juggling kids and elder care at the same time can be a lot! Here are a few strategies that may help members of the sandwich generation provide the best care possible for their seniors, their juniors – and themselves.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
One of the biggest problems facing family caregivers is the risk of burnout. Having to shoulder some or all of the responsibilities of caring for an older loved one can cause stress, anxiety, depression, anger, exhaustion, illness, and physical strain.
These issues may only be compounded when you’re “burning the candle on both ends,” and supporting younger family members as well as older ones.
As a caregiver, it’s important to carve out time and energy for yourself, as well as your loved ones. Practice self-care however you can. This may mean getting enough rest, staying hydrated, taking care to eat nutritious meals, making time to exercise, or scheduling doctor’s appointments for yourself. Take care of your health and well-being!
At the same time, remember that there are things in life besides caregiving. When your schedule is loaded with appointments and responsibilities for others, it can be easy to forget to do things for yourself. It’s not selfish to make time for yourself – it’s essential, for your health.
Give yourself the opportunity to rest, recharge, and refocus when you can. Maybe this means taking up a hobby, joining a community social organization, or playing a sport. Perhaps it means spending time on art projects, or just making time to go on nature walks or take a nap. Ultimately, making time to love and care for yourself will benefit both you and your loved ones. These periods of respite give you back time and energy, which you can then bring to your loved ones when you turn your focus back on caregiving.
Get Your Family Involved
Looking after two generations at once can certainly be overwhelming. But under the right circumstances, it may be a great opportunity to bring family members together.
For some parents with older kids (say, teenagers and twenty-somethings), the younger generation may be able to assist with caregiving for their grandparents. This may mean spending time and giving companionship to their older family members. In other cases, it might involve taking some “behind the scenes” responsibilities off of their parents’ plates, such as grocery shopping, transporting younger siblings, or helping with housework.
As a caregiver, remember that you don’t need to shoulder every chore or responsibility on your own. If it’s possible to delegate – either to your kids, your spouse, your siblings, other members of the family, or even a professional in-home caregiver – then there is no shame in doing so!
For your own kids, helping out can be a great opportunity to teach them of the importance of responsibility and independence. Whether or not your family is able to get involved directly with caregiving, be sure to be open and communicative about your feelings, your setbacks, and your expectations for your family. Often, kids can sense changes in your mood or attitude, even without you telling them directly.
Be sure to facilitate open lines of communication, wherever and however you can. This may mean setting up a time for regular family meetings. For extended families, it may even mean setting up a digital process for keeping everyone in the loop on a loved one’s care needs. An online calendar, a group text chat, a shared digital photo album, a virtual reminder system – all of these can be great resources for keeping your whole family up to date and involved in some part of caregiving.
Get a Handle on Your Work/Life Balance
In addition to providing support to their older loved ones, and younger children, many adults in the sandwich generation also have professional responsibilities to keep up with. On top of all of their other duties, a busy job can make a caregiver feel stressed. If this situation isn’t addressed, it can be a major factor that may drive a caregiver towards burnout.
Maintaining work/life balance may be important to your success as a family caregiver – but it’s often easier said than done.
With that said, you may be able to speak to your employer about changing up your hours. A more flexible work schedule could enable you to better manage your work duties with your caregiving life. In other cases, some companies offer benefits designed to help out employees with child care or senior care services.
Or perhaps telecommuting could be an option, depending on your occupation. Working from home (or from a parent or loved one’s home) may allow you to manage your caregiving tasks and work responsibilities more easily.
Care.com stresses the importance of prioritizing your daily workload. As they put it:
“You are one person and there are 24 hours in a day. Those two numbers won’t change. Make a list of all of the things you think need to be done. Then prioritize them. What can you cut out? How can you minimize your workload each day?”
In some cases, this may mean giving up or cutting back on your work life in order to devote more time and attention to your family. In others, it will mean seeking out family or professional help with caregiving, so that you can divide your attention more evenly, with less stress. Everyone’s journey here will be unique.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help When You Need It
Author and caregiving expert Carol Bradley Bursack once wrote something that we think is quite insightful. In talking about being a member of the sandwich generation, she noted that caregivers may benefit from making a point of “having another ‘filling’ in the sandwich.”
As she wrote:
“Make it a ‘peanut butter and jelly’ by ensuring you have someone to share the load with you, even if it is just occasionally. This second filling can be a family member, a friend, a professional caregiver hired through a home care company or, better yet, all three. Having a care team and back-up help is much more interesting and beneficial for all involved.”
One of the most important things to remember about caregiving is that you never have to face the responsibilities alone. Beyond friends and family, there are numerous professional resources you can turn to, from meal delivery services, to medical professionals, to in-home companionship services.
Whether for an hour, a day, or a week, professional in-home companionship services can help give your loved one the personalized care and assistance they need, while also giving you respite, and a chance to devote your time to work, kids, or any of the other important things in your life. Your loved one may also benefit from the chance to socialize with a new companion!
About Companions for Seniors
Do you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance of a professional caregiver? Are you curious about the details of caregiving? Do you have any questions about taking care of your loved ones? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the professionals at Companions for Seniors to keep the conversation going.
We’re always happy to lend an ear, and offer whatever guidance we can to help you make the best possible decision for yourself and your loved ones.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support.
We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs Our companions are trained, bonded, and insured to the highest levels. We offer personalized care plans for each of our clients, and our caregivers can assist with activities of daily living, housekeeping, driving services, and more.
Don’t hesitate to get it touch today, either by giving us a call or filling out our easy-to-use contact form, available right here.