It is common to prepare for the various life stages that befall us at certain points in our lives. We prepare for college, for marriage, for children. We ready ourselves for the milestones that are best tackled with some foresight. Something that isn't often covered, however, is how to prepare for managing responsibilities in the sandwich generation. The truth is, it frequently sneaks up on those of us who suddenly find ourselves actually in the sandwich. To get ready for the inevitable stress, here are ideas to help you balance your responsibilities as parent and caregiver.
Understand Elder Issues
The Sandwich Generation needs to have a clear understanding of elder issues. They also need to reduce the stress of caregiving. They must juggle many different functions, but need to be as clear-headed and compassionate as possible. With 25% of American families currently dealing with elder/parent care issues, it is important to realize that you are not alone.
Prepare emotionally for the responsibility of caring for your parents. Caring for your parents and your kids will come with an emotional and physical toll. You will also have to deal with the stress of your career, your other relationships, and other daily challenges. Take time for yourself to recharge from your responsibilities.
Another emotional issue is guilt. A parent's problems may need to come before a child's or vice versa, which can cause feelings of guilt. The most important thing is to realize that all families have conflicting needs. Don't feel guilty! Guilt can prevent you from fulfilling any of your responsibilities.
Ask For Help
Asking for help with senior family members in the form of respite care or even from older children in the family is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. You can also request help for your younger children who may need it. When raising kids and caring for an elderly relative, know that there is help available—both for dealing with children and aging parents. Knowing that there is help out there is critical to allowing ourselves to stay in control of our responsibilities. It is a surprise to find out how many people are willing to help out (if only for a small window of time) just by being asked.
Map Out Finances
There are ways to save for college tuition and care for your loved one. Manage everyday spending money and create a budget. Plan for various scenarios, like Mom needs an in-home caregiver, or Dad needs to be moved into an assisted living facility. Consider all your options for each scenario.
Hold Regular Family Meetings
Though it is easy to believe that you alone are responsible for caring for your family, that is not the case. When an older one is in crisis, the entire family is in crisis. A strong line of open and honest communication between all family members can ease your burden.
Talk realistically with your parent about the time you spend caring for your children and financial responsibilities. Likewise, talk with your children about how their lives will be affected by the growing needs of your parent. A family that understands the issues can accommodate the varying needs of each individual family member. Above all, use this time to assure your parent and your child of your love and commitment to their continued well-being.
Set Realistic Goals
Understanding that there are only 24 hours in every day is essential. Make a list of the things that are necessary each day — your work schedule, the needs of your parents, the needs of your children and spouse, and your own needs. Delegate responsibility when you can. If your spouse cannot share in the physical care of your parent, can they take one of your other duties instead?
For instance, can your spouse oversee your child's homework and prepare a meal when you are helping your parent? Consider shifting some age-appropriate tasks to your children. Can they handle the laundry? Or perform simple tasks, like dusting and vacuuming your home? Including everyone in this way helps meet the needs and also engender a sense of family togetherness during a difficult time.
Life is stressful! When the myriad of responsibilities of the Sandwich Generation are added in, it can seem like too much. Being prepared and doing what you can to eliminate stress will help decrease your burden.
If you are dealing with responsibilities in the sandwich generation, learn how Caring Senior Service can help! We can help provide care for your senior, please contact your local Caring office.