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. In order to ready ourselves for the inevitable stress of this situation, 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 and reduce the stress of caregiving. With having to juggle many different functions, this generation needs to be as clear-headed and compassionate as possible, and with 25% of American families currently dealing with elder/parent care issues, it is important to realize that we are not alone.
Preparing for, and knowing how to handle the emotional drain that comes with looking after elderly family members, children of our own, our careers, relationships and so forth is paramount in this situation. A parent's "issues" may, at times, need to come before a child's or vice versa, and the most important thing is to realize that all families have conflicting needs. In order to remain as unflappable as possible when managing our responsibilities, the feeling of guilt should be one that we don't let stick around for very long, if at all.
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, as is requesting help for our younger children who may need it. When raising kids and caring for an elderly or sick relative, it’s also important to know that there is usually 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 normally 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 of your options for each scenario.
Hold Regular Family Meetings
Though it is easy to believe that you alone are responsible for caring for your aged loved one and your children, 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 do much to ease your burden.
Talk realistically with your parent about the time that must be spent 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 of all concerned is better able to 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 absolutely necessary each day regarding your work schedule, the needs of your parents, the needs of your children and spouse, and your own needs as well. 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 the preparation of a simple meal when you are otherwise engaged with 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 or the home of your parent? Including everyone in this way works to not only meet the needs as they exist, but also to engender a sense of family togetherness during a difficult time.
Life is stressful, and when the myriad of responsibilities of The Sandwich Generation are added in, it can sometimes seem like too much. Being prepared and doing what we can to eliminate stress will help immensely to lessen the burden that we find ourselves a part of.
If you are dealing with the overwhelming tasks of being in the sandwich generation, learn how Caring Senior Service can help you, by providing care for your senior, please contact us.