You may not be a member of the Sandwich Generation now, but chances are, you may be at some point in your life. The term Sandwich Generation describes the growing segment of adults who simultaneously care for an older adult (usually a parent or parent-in-law) as well as their own children.
The rise of the Sandwich Generation is the culmination of several broad trends. We’re living longer and many of us are delaying marriage and childbearing. Furthermore, adult children are living at home longer or returning after a divorce.
Caring for more than one generation at the same time can be both positive and rewarding and stressful and exhausting. On the plus side, it may foster closeness among family members and make caregivers feel good about their ability to care for loved ones. However, being sandwiched between demanding generations may also compromise your health. It reduces the time you can invest in healthy behaviors (such as exercising or preparing nutritious meals). Plus, when you’re focused on taking care of other people’s needs, you may not attend to your own. Caregiving can pull you in many directions and strain personal, emotional and financial resources.
If you’re a multigenerational caregiver, here are a few tips to help you navigate the waters:
Prioritize your own retirement plan. This may sound like a small detail when you face pressing day-to-day responsibilities. However, if you don’t make it a priority, someday your children may be worried about how to help support you.
Take care of yourself. Remember the airplane safety message: Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. If you’re not healthy and rested, you won’t be able to take care of your loved ones. In addition to eating right and getting regular exercise, make sure to get plenty of sleep. Nothing will deplete your mental and physical reserves faster than sleep deprivation.
Share the workload. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask for help. If you have siblings, ask them to participate in caring for parents or grandparents, even if they are far away. Engage all able-bodied family members in household chores. Hire outside help (if you can afford it) to do things you personally don’t have to do.
Communicate—often and clearly. Schedule family meetings to give everyone a chance to express their feelings and concerns. Set expectations about what you can and cannot do. If your parents or an adult child is going to move in with you, set clear ground rules about finances, chores and other potential conflict-generating topics.
TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS
- Prioritize your retirement planning
- Communicate clearly and frequently with children, parents and spouse
- Seek help from family members or paid caregivers
- Take care of your health (eat a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, engage in enjoyable activities)
- Manage your stress so it doesn’t make you sick
- Be realistic about what you can—and cannot—do
- Have a sense of humor
Did You Know?
- 47% of adults 40 to 59 had a parent 65+ and were raising a minor child or supporting a grown child
- 15% provided financial support to a parent 65+ and a child any age
If you start noticing signs of burnout—feeling overwhelmed, changes in sleep or weight, feeling tired, losing interest in activities—talk to your family doctor. He or she can monitor your vital measurements of health (such as your blood pressure), suggest ways to prevent stress from harming your health and recommend resources that may alleviate some of the burden.
© 2018 Relevate Health Group Inc. All rights reserved.