The Sandwich Generation
Caring for Your Children as You Care for Your Aging Parent
Many families today are put in a position to care for both their growing children and their aging parent at the same time. Their combined role as both parent and caregiver can bring great stress, exhaustion, and tension into a family environment. For many people it is a priority that their aging parent stay in the comfort of their own home, so it is important that the caregiver has a balanced view of their new role; which will help them thrive in various circumstances.
It is possible to raise your kids and provide care and comfort for an aging parent, but you can't do it alone without completely overwhelming yourself and your family.
The good news is that this task does not have to be taken on alone and there is help available to those willing to take it! The following articles give some helpful tips about how to effectively juggle child-care and parent-care. There are specific things you need to remember during this time when addressing your child's needs, your aging parent's needs, and your own needs. Every person is affected uniquely by the new family dynamic, and so every person needs to be taken care of differently.
From experience we know that there will be challenges along the way, but this time will be rewarding for every family member involved.
Articles from youragingparent.com:
If you’re a member of the “sandwich generation,” if you’re taking care of your aging parent as well as your children, it’s hard to shake the feeling that if you focus on one generation you’re losing sight of the needs of the other. It can help to remember – to realize – that your taking care of your parent is good for your children, too. How so? You’re right that your kids also make a sacrifice because you can’t be around as much as the they would like you to be and, most likely, they have to do more – become more responsible – because you can’t be there. (Maybe they have to make their own lunch to take to school. Or you can’t be a chaperon at some school event even though you were able to do that a year or so ago.) Yes, in some ways a child is being deprived of what a parent might be able to give if he or she didn’t have caregiving obligations to an older family member (or to a spouse who is ill or to a child with special needs) but – from another perspective –Mom or Dad is giving something to that child or those children that he or she otherwise couldn’t give. We mean a front-row view of love in action without any possibility of mistaking the unchangeable fact that true love demands service and sacrifice. Still . . . it can be a lot to put on little shoulders. All they may see at first glance is that Mom or Dad isn’t there (or is there but is exhausted from caregiving and holding down a job) and they miss not just what that parent does for them (nice meals, rides to practice and so on) but also that person himself or herself. They miss time spent together. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions if you’re taking care of an aging parent and your children: --Talk about caregiving at a time when neither you nor your child are tired and emotions are not running high. --Do something special with each child, one-on one. --Explain what it’s like to be a care-receiver, how it can be hard to accept help. Talk about why you’re taking care of Grandpa or Grandma and explain – in an age-appropriate way –what his or condition is. --Work at establishing a link between your children and your parent. Let them have some time together. --Remember children can, in small ways, help with caregiving, too. --Teach what respectful care means and explain the difference between “dignity” and “dignified.” Yes, at times, a situation may be less than “dignified” but a person must be treated with dignity. --Remember to thank the child for making sacrifices and for helping you help your mother or father.
The "sandwich generation" is a good description. There's pressure from both sides and sometimes it gets messy in the middle. That's what it can feel like if you're taking care of not only your children but your aging parent as well. Add in a spouse and a job and it's no wonder it often seems a twenty-four-hour day and seven-day week just aren't enough for all you have to do. Then, too, from the time all of us were little we were taught there is a right way and a wrong way to accomplish a task. To meet—and overcome— challenge. Maybe your parent took care of Grandma or Grandpa. Your spouse took care of your mother- or father-in-law. Your friends or co-workers seem to be able to handle their situations. But you . . . . When you realize, when it becomes so painfully obvious, you can't do all the things you're supposed to do—all the things other people have done or are doing—you feel so inadequate. So guilty. You think you're letting everyone down. If you just worked a little harder. Slept a little less. Sacrificed a little more. Then somehow . . . . If you find yourself in that situation, or feel yourself sinking into it, these suggestions might help: ● Remember there is no single "right" way to do this. Trying to exactly mimic what another person has done probably isn't going to work. Each case is unique because the personalities and problems in each case are unique. ● If you don't take care of yourself—take time to eat, sleep, catch your breath and pray—you will burn out quickly and be of little use to anyone, including yourself. The situation in which you find yourself is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Yes, someday it will end but that may be a long, long time from now. In the meantime, if you do not pace yourself, sometimes even pamper yourself, you won't be able to keep going. That's not because you're weak, it's because you're human. ● The big picture can look and feel overwhelming. Sometimes it helps to break it down into the many tiny pieces that make up the whole. What you have to do for your parent. Your children. Your spouse. Your job. Yourself. The lists may be long but somehow no single item is overpowering. ● Prioritize your tasks. Making those lists helps. Obviously, getting Mom to her doctor's appointment is more important than vacuuming her apartment. ● Give away some of the low-priority duties. Someone else can be hired to do the apartment cleaning. Someone else—the bakery department at the local grocery store—can supply the brownies you're supposed to send to the next Cub Scout den meeting. ● Get support for yourself. Groups for caregivers and organizations that focus on your parent's particular illness or condition can help you deal with what you are facing. Doctors, social workers and the Area Agency on Aging can give you local contacts. ● Write it down. Dates and schedules and all that information from doctors, therapists, pharmacists, teachers, coaches, your boss, your spouse, your kids . . . . There's no way a person can remember all the things you need to remember. It may seem the day is completely packed but if you jot down your own "to do" list, you may discover there's half an hour free here. Twenty minutes there. A little oasis like that gives you something to look forward to. A short break to at least partially recharge your batteries before you have to go, go, go again.