Many of the middle-aged adults today face the challenges of raising kids and taking care of their elderly parents all by themselves. According to the Pew Research Center, about 25% of adults are accountable for managing the responsibilities of caring for two generations. In addition, the Center for Policy on Ageing has stated that about 66% of the sandwiched generation adults say that caregiving or juggling between multiple responsibilities has affected their physical well-being and 70% say that it has significantly affected their mental well-being. These adults (both male and female) are known as the sandwich generation, where they handle the stress of managing both work and home.
Sandwich generation caregivers
Sandwich generation caregivers are those, mostly women, who take care of at least one elderly member, and at the same time, take care of one or more dependent children. In other words, it is a term that is applied to anyone who is struggling to take care of their children and aging parents at the same time. So, anyone who is sandwiched, between these two generations, belongs to the group of sandwich-generation caregivers.
The task of caregiving was never a simple one; and it becomes all the more difficult for the sandwich generation caregivers. Such caregivers, fall in the group of 30s – 40s and they strive hard to take care of both these generations.
The situation can get overwhelming at times, but certain strategies would help you to take care of your family and parents.
Dilemmas of the Sandwich Generation
Adults belonging to the sandwich generation, often face the below-mentioned dilemmas:
All these and many other guilts or dilemmas are faced by the adults belonging to the sandwich generation. However, one must not despair and lose heart, as many strategies can lessen your guilt and help you to get support.
• Communication is the key:
Let your partner/spouse know about the difficulties you are facing and how their support and love can help you manage both generations. You also need to encourage the children to communicate with your elderly parents, so in a way they both can take care of each other and provide support. Talk and communicate with your family and friends as to how they can help you to adjust to such challenging situations.
• Share your caregiving responsibilities:
This is one of the biggest support systems you as a caregiver can ask for. Ask your family to share your caregiving responsibilities. As a caregiver, you do not carry any superpowers that would enable you to handle everything singlehandedly. Hold meetings with your family members and ask them to pitch in with the caregiving tasks that need to be accomplished every day. You can even ask your elderly parents to get involved in the activities that need to be done for your children. When the tasks are taken up, and carried out mutually, then not only are the things properly taken care of, but a sense of love and bonding also develops between the family members.
• Relieve your stress:
You need to relieve your stress; and failure to do so can cause caregiver burnout to set in, which is going to land you in trouble, and certainly would not be a pleasant sight for your loved ones as well. The following tips can help you relieve your stress buildup.
a. Make time of at least 30 minutes each day to exercise, meditate, read, or listen to music. Whatever your preference, you need to set out half an hour each day to indulge in an activity that gives you pleasure.
b. Let your loved ones know that by taking care of your elderly parents you are certainly not ignoring your family and vice versa. Both generations should be assured that you are making all the possible efforts to take care of them, and neither of them should misunderstand you.
c. Take time out, at least once a week to spend time with your spouse.
d. Lastly, it is necessary to keep in touch with friends, who would willingly spend time with you and with whom you can pour your heart out.
• Get extra help:
A caregiver, who is managing both generations, is bound to feel exhausted, irritated, stressed out, and frustrated. In such situations, instead of managing everything alone, you need to be vocal, voice out your feelings, and get extra help through respite care services whenever required. This is important to prevent caregiver burnout. Respite care services would send someone over, who would shoulder your caregiving responsibilities for a short period, allowing you to relax and rewind.
Does this sound like your story? – Survival tips for the sandwich generation caregivers
If you ever happen to find yourself sandwiched between these two generations, you are bound to get overwhelmed and extremely stressed out trying to maintain a work-life balance. With the burden of all the responsibilities, you always tend to neglect your needs and put your health problems on the back burner. But, one thing that needs to be carefully understood is that self-care is important if you wish to continue caring for your loved ones. You cannot expect to provide support and care to your loved one if you are not feeling up to the mark. Taking care of your physical and mental health is also extremely necessary.
Caregivers often tend to put everyone’s needs as the top priority and neglect their own needs and demands. However, little do they forget that, without looking after their needs, they are in no way doing justice to the job of caregiving. Therefore, to be an effective caregiver, you need to prioritize your own mental as well as physical health. Am sharing some worthy survival tips, that you can consider for taking care of children and aging parents.
• Get everyone to share the load:
It is practically impossible to do all the tasks single-handed. Therefore, it’s time to start delegating as much work as possible. Delegate tasks amongst the family members and get help. If your kids are between 7 – 10 years, you can also delegate low-skill tasks to them. If your parents are willing, then they can help the kids with their homework and you can also ask them to do tasks that suit their age and capacity. The more the family members share the load, the lesser would be the burden on your shoulders.
• Get help from outside:
If you can afford to hire paid help, then you certainly must. No one expects that you have to provide care all by yourself. Hire help and get your tasks done faster and more efficiently. For example, you can hire a nanny, that could watch over your kids, while you complete your other tasks. This would save you from multitasking and also would give you some breathing space. You could also consider hiring a caregiver, who would come and watch over your parents and help them with their daily routine. Like this, you can take some time off, and take care of tasks that can be done only by you. By doing this, you can preserve your sanity and also take care of your physical and mental health.
• Reprioritize every day:
When you learn to reprioritize on an everyday basis, it then helps you achieve your goals easily. However, there may be days, when all the tasks may seem to be a priority, then according to experts, make a list of all the tasks that need to be done, and segregate them into urgent and non-urgent tasks. This simple exercise will help you to figure out, which tasks need to be done first.
• Keep aside some time for self-care:
When you start neglecting your health and its needs on a daily basis, then caregiver burnout can set in pretty early. To avoid this, you must make some time out for yourself every day and practice some self-care tips, for your physical and mental well-being.
Sandwich generation self-care tips for you to follow.
• Get quality sleep:
You need to get some quality sleep, if you wish to remain healthy. Getting more sleep is indeed the key to leading a healthy lifestyle. Sleeping less gradually impairs cognitive functioning and also weakens your immunity. Therefore, getting consistent deep sleep is extremely essential for you to function optimally.
• A healthy diet is essential:
It is often noticed, that family caregivers have little or no time to sit and have a complete meal properly. They are just after completing one after the chores, and many times do not have proper three meals a day. But, did we know, that a healthy diet has a deep impact on our stress levels? Yes, this is true, and therefore, having a healthy and complete meal with a calm mind is important to build a strong immune system. As far as possible, it is necessary to have whole grains in your diet and avoid refined stuff. Incorporate leafy greens into your diet, which gives you the required antioxidant boost. Fiber-rich foods keep you full for longer durations.
• Exercise regularly:
Exercising regularly has multiple benefits to its credit. It not only strengthens your bones and immune system but also regulates your heart health and keeps stress at bay.
• Laughter is the best medicine:
Laughter instantly uplifts your mood and also reduces physical pain. Try and introduce some amount of humor into your daily routine. Involve family members and watch a clip of your favorite comedian or listen to some fun podcast, which will help lighten up your mood.
Challenges of a sandwich generation caregiver
It is not easy to be a caregiver, and the job becomes more difficult when you belong to the sandwich generation. The everyday challenges, and fears, make the caregiver overwhelmed and stressed. The fear of not being able to put up with everyone’s needs and wants, the fear of failing as a caregiver, and the fear of not being able to maintain the work–life balance. Many times, it looks impossible to manage everything alone. Here are some of the challenges faced by the caregivers belonging to the sandwich generation.
• Balancing a full-time job and the task of caregiving:
This is certainly one of the most demanding and stressful tasks. Raising a family, taking care of aging parents, and managing a full-time job, all at the same time can be a very stressful situation to handle.
• Taking time out for self-care:
Caregivers often keep their needs aside and take care of everyone else’s needs. They tend to skip meals, their exercise routine, doctor appointments, social gatherings, and everything necessary for their well-being.
• Financial stress:
Providing for household needs, paying utility bills, taking care of your child’s education and your loved one’s medication and other needs can certainly put you under financial stress. You may be prepared for funding your child’s education, but taking care of your loved one’s medication and other needs, may not be in your financial list of things. Therefore, discussing finances and how to meet the increasing demands of your loved ones becomes a necessity. There are many different ways through which you can either support your child’s education or take care of your loved one’s medical expenses. You need to discuss and make decisions in the best interest of the family.
The family caregivers of the sandwich generation face umpteen challenges. I have quoted only a part of the challenges faced by them. However, family caregivers always wish to give quality care to their loved ones. They leave no stone unturned to take care of their children and aging parents. If you are a family caregiver, then do reach out to others for help and also make time for yourself. You need to remember, that you can only take good care of others if you are physically and mentally healthy!!