Are you an adult child who is the primary caregiver for an aging parent? Do you have kids of your own who depend on you for care?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, you aren’t alone. In fact, you are one of 22 million sandwich generation caregivers in this country. It’s a phrase coined to describe the situation many midlife adults find themselves in. They are responsible for raising children of their own, while also providing care and support to an aging parent.
Pew Research Center tells us that 1 out of every 8 Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 is a sandwich generation caregiver. As our population continues to age, the numbers will climb.
Sandwiched between the needs of multiple generations can be a stressful and challenging path to navigate. One that can lead caregivers to feel anxious and depressed.
Anxious Days: Caregiver Struggles
When you are struggling to meet the needs of two important generations of your family, you may feel you aren’t giving either one the attention they want and deserve. If you work full- or part-time outside the home, the balancing act is even more stressful.
The guilt that sandwich generation caregivers often feel may lead to chronic stress and anxiety. When you are pulled in multiple directions, it’s easy to feel like you are failing at everything—assisting your parent, supporting your children, and maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse.
Surviving the Sandwich Generation Caregiver Years
If you are having a tough time managing the stress and anxiety of being a caregiver, these tips may help.
1. Set realistic expectations
Trying to be everything to everyone is an untenable situation. Instead of trying to go it alone, ask for and accept help. It’s important to have realistic expectations for what you can—and can’t—do in a day.
Some adults feel they are failing their family if they aren’t present for every activity and outing their children or grandchildren participate in. Try to prioritize those that are most important to you and your family and focus on those. This will allow you to be more fully present, instead of showing up too anxious or exhausted to enjoy yourself.
The same holds true for caregiving tasks that you perform. Are there some responsibilities that require your presence and others that can be delegated? Can you ask a friend or family member to pitch in and help?
2. Explore convenience services
One benefit of today’s fast-paced lifestyle is the abundance of convenience services busy families can turn to for help. Are you taking advantage of them?
Grocery stores that deliver or offer curbside pickup is a huge time-saver. As are mail-order pharmacies for seniors, visiting physician programs, ride-sharing services, and restaurants that deliver.
Meal delivery companies such as Blue Apron and Sun Basket allow families to eat well-balanced meals with a fraction of the prep time. One to explore for your parent is Silver Cuisine. It is designed with the nutritional needs of older adults in mind. These precooked meals are ready to heat and eat.
Virtual physician visits and telehealth monitoring can eliminate some of the trips to and from the doctor’s office. It’s a time saver for you and a convenience for your parent. Ask your parent’s physician if either of these services is an option.
3. Create systems to stay organized
Sandwich generation caregivers frequently struggle to manage an onslaught of paperwork and time-sensitive tasks. It is overwhelming, and often causes an abundance of anxiety.
Creating a file for important paperwork for each family member, and a master calendar to log all dates will help you stay organized. Each week take a few minutes to look at the commitments you have coming up and plan for them. It will take more time initially but will save you time and aggravation once you are better organized.
Looking ahead will also allow you to identify days when you are double-booked and will need help from a friend or family member. Knowing you are prepared for the week ahead can help decrease anxiety and make it easier to handle any unexpected challenges that pop up.
Is It Time for Senior Living?
If you are finding it increasingly difficult to meet your parent’s needs or worry about how many hours they spend alone, it may be time to consider a move to a senior living community. You’ll have peace of mind knowing transportation, personal care, housekeeping services, and more are readily available. With locations in California, and one coming soon in Nevada, we invite you to consider Clearwater Living.
Should you need help deciding what type of senior living best meets your loved one’s needs, our assessment tool can help you make an informed decision.