If you are in your 30’s or 50s and are in between having aging parents and rearing your children, you are part of the sandwich generation. Nothing could be physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically draining than juggling your time between them, not to mention your marriage, including other responsibilities such as home management and work.
Being in this situation may leave you feeling overwhelmed. It is essential to know that you are not alone. The good thing is, something can be done and that assistance and help are within reach.
Below are ten ways to help you cope with managing the unique stress of taking care of a growing family and aging parents.
1. Stop and Breathe
When we are bombarded with so many things all at once, the most typical reaction is to freeze, be overwhelmed, and get stuck. When you find yourself in this situation, take a step back from the warzone, breathe, and sort things out one at a time.
Sometimes, it is difficult to process things when you are full of emotions. Taking time to calm down allows you to become clearheaded enough to see blind spots and even solutions that you can’t see while you were too stressed.
2. Learn to Say No
Lessen your workload by making a list of the things that you have to do in a day. Are there any non-essentials that you can cut-out? Is there workload you can delegate? Keep your boundaries and learn how to say no when necessary.
3. Talk to Your Employer
Most companies recognize that stress and burden from homes affect their employees’ efficiency and productivity. This is why more and more companies are willing to offer support for employees who are primary caregivers in their companies. This may include flexible working schedules or the opportunity to work from home. Some may even offer financial assistance and reimbursements.
4. Let Go of the Guilt
Hard choices are one of the most challenging things that come with being sandwiched between many responsibilities. Choosing one over the other will never be easy and may leave out feelings of guilt. Being in one place may leave you feeling guilty for not being in another.
You must let go of the idea of achieving perfect balance. While it is ideal, there will be times that more attention and focus will be devoted to your family, and sometimes, your priorities would shift to your parents. That’s OK. Let your priorities help you with decision making.
Spreading yourself too thin may also make you feel like you’re not giving your 100%. Remember to tell yourself that you are just human, and anything and everything you do is making an impact on others. Embracing your limitations not only removes the feelings of guilt. It can also make you more open to receiving help in areas that you need assistance.
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5. Reach Out and Accept Help
Once you recognize that you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to extend support if you only ask. Also, don’t be shy to say yes when someone offers to help.
Share your burden with others. Don’t be guilty of tapping the help of your siblings, spouse, friends, or even professional caregivers. You can even hold family meetings to set expectations and delegate tasks to members. Planning your schedule as a family will help avoid conflicts and unnecessary overlaps.
You can even look for a housekeeper or a babysitter to split the load in the home. Having someone, or better yet, a group sharing the burden with you, even just occasionally, can provide you with some time to rest and do something else with your time.
Aside from your personal network, you can also tap local agencies, social workers, your local church for help.
6. Involve the Children
Taking care of aging family members can benefit your kids. Even your children will indeed need to sacrifice and likely be deprived somehow of your attention and time. They’re likely to become more responsible. But they’re also the first to witness what real love is like – sacrifice and service.
Besides, no matter their age and maturity, all children can help in the care of the elderly. Make sure to involve them by providing “age-appropriate” information about the situation and giving them responsibility according to their capabilities. Make use of teachable moments that emerge in the home.
7. Prepare Ahead
Life is unpredictable. Save yourself time rummaging important documents by planning ahead and organizing them in a nice clipped file. Talk to your parents about essential decisions, documents, and information such as accounts, wills, and funeral plans.
Don’t be afraid of difficult talks. Many people tend to delay these, embarrassed to initiate tough conversations. But save yourself from future guilt, worry, and stress by planning. It is easier to move when plans are laid out clearly, and you are well aware of the elderly’s plans and wishes.
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8. Manage Resources Well
Besides your time, caring for your elderly parents alongside your own family will take a toll on your finances. This is especially true if you have decided to go full-time into caregiving. A good option is to look for freelance work that you could do at home to supplement your needs.
If your parents have Social Security benefits and pension, use them to supplement the cost of taking care of them. Especially if they go on elderly daycare or getting home rehabilitation, getting some assistance would go a long way. Your state Council on Aging can help you look for financial aid options and filing for insurance reimbursement.
9. Take Time Off
With too many things on their plate, caregivers usually go on autopilot that they forget the most important responsibility they have – self-care. Sometimes, you have to be deliberate and have a scheduled “respite.”
This can be as simple as finding a few minutes and blocking it off your schedule for some “me time,” where you can do some meditation, exercise, or a nice warm bath.
Take some time off by yourself and do something fun for yourself. Maybe, a walk by the beach, some window shopping, or even just some coffee at a nearby café. Just make sure that while you’re out, your mind isn’t lingering elsewhere.
If you find yourself exhibiting signs of burnout such as fatigue, declining health, and loss of energy, and isolation and withdrawal, you should seek professional help. You have to remember, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”
10. Built Your Support System
Juggling work, home, and caring for both your aging parents and children may leave you too exhausted to even stay in touch with people. But socialization and connecting with people is essential for your physical and mental health.
Reach out to family and friends, your faith community, or even find a local support group. One major impact of caregiving on people in the sandwich generation is feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even short phone calls for venting out your fears and frustrations could go a long way.
If you can’t meet people physically, try looking for online supports. There are a lot of forums available over the Internet. Not only can they provide support by being on the same boat with you, but they can also provide you with valuable information regarding your parents’ condition. Specific support groups for people taking care of the elderly such as those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s are available online.
A Final Word
While life as a caregiver sandwiched between many responsibilities makes balancing difficult, if not impossible, planning, being deliberate, resourceful, and open can help you stay on top amid the chaotic situation. But while you’re busy giving your best to the people you love, you owe the same amount of love and care to yourself, too.