If you’re one of the 20 million Americans squeezed between caring for children/grandchildren and your elder parents, you are part of what’s called the “Sandwich Generation”. According to the, Pew Research Center, one out of every eight Americans, ages 40 to 60, is both raising a child or grandchild and caring for at least one parent at home.
The New York Times reports that 53 percent of those in the Sandwich Generation feel forced to choose between being there for their children and being there for their ailing parents. Surprisingly, one in five say they make that choice every single day. And almost all of these people feel as if they are spread too thin.
So how do you survive the squeeze and keep your sanity? Here are several tips for family caregivers who find they are being pulled in two directions:
1) Organize paperwork – Make sure all legal documents for the older adults are in place and easily accessible. This includes a durable power of attorney, which allows a person to designate someone as the decision maker should the person become unable to do so. As important is a health care directive showing who will make medical decisions as well as an updated will.
2) Be realistic about what you can do – Don’t expect too much of yourself emotionally, physically or financially. All you can expect is that you will do the best you can under the circumstances. Remember that it is perfectly normal to feel that you are not doing enough or not meeting everyone’s needs.
3) Ask for help – Hire a caregiver from a reputable home care agency to give you a break from elderly loved ones for a few hours a week or on the weekends. Geriatric Care Managers can also help take some of pressure off. Contact family members, friends or relatives and seek out their help. You can also enlist community resources such as your local office on aging or local senior center. Ask for a referral to volunteers who work with seniors. Some hospitals or churches might also be of help.
4) Make time for yourself – Even if it’s just a ten minute walk around the block or a quick soak in the tub before bed, don’t lose touch with yourself. Find a special place or sanctuary where you can relax and focus on your own needs. Find a support network of friends and get involved in book groups or women’s groups so that you can talk to others about the daily life challenges you face.
5) Laughter is the best medicine – Keep a sense of humor about the situation and always try to look on the bright side of things.
Although the demands of caring for the very young and the very old at the same time are challenging, the Sandwich Generation caregivers often feel that giving care to those they love enhances the relationships with their dependent parents and relatives – not to mention, a sense of personal satisfaction.
Kathy N. Johnson, PhD, CMC, is a Certified Geriatric Care Manager and the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Assistance – North America’s leading provider of non-medical, in-home care for seniors. Dr. Johnson also co-authored the book, , , based on the ground breaking Okinawa Centenarian Study. Happy to 102 spells out precisely what it takes to delay or escape Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases, as well as how to slow the aging process.