As our loved ones age, the responsibility of care often falls on that of the children. But what happens when those children are caring for children of their own?
Enter, the sandwich generation. The sandwich generation is a term used to describe a group of individuals who find themselves simultaneously providing essential support and care for both their aging parent(s) and their children.
The sandwich generation is often called upon to support two generations through financial support, caregiving, and emotional assistance. This phenomenon has become increasingly relevant due to factors such as longer life expectancies, delayed childbearing, and economic pressures.
Sandwiched between their children and their parents, the sandwich generation faces unique challenges and stressors as they navigate their caregiving roles for both younger and older family members.
Managing It All
If you find yourself in this sandwich phenomenon, you likely feel stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, and alone. While it may feel like all the pressures of the world are on your shoulders, there is hope!
Where are seven applicable tips for taking back control of your time, emotions, and day-to-day life as you navigate this season of life. There are essential resources available to support you and your family on this journey as you provide sustaining care to your loved ones.
Tip 1: Organize & Reprioritize
Looking at the big picture can feel overwhelming and impossible to tackle. Start by breaking down your big tasks into small ones. Determine what is truly a priority and what would be nice to accomplish.
Creating a daily, weekly, or monthly to-do list with prioritized action items will help you and your family visually see and understand where to commit time and energy. It will also help you determine what tasks you can complete on your own and when you will need to ask for help.
Tip #2: Share the Responsibility
Now that you have developed a list of responsibilities and duties, it’s time to assign them. Don’t take on all of the tasks yourself! It truly takes a village to care for and provide for multiple generations.
Do you have adult siblings? Get them involved as well! Plan a monthly family meeting to determine shared responsibilities.
Once a month, invite your siblings to bring their calendars for a planning meeting. Assign tasks such as picking up medication, transportation for doctor’s visits, events, shopping, hygiene tasks, and other assignments. If there is dementia involved, perhaps assigning one sibling to manage bills will also be helpful. Delegating all these tasks ensures no one person has all the responsibility.
Meetings should provide clarity on assignments, as well as define your responsibilities and limitations as a dual caregiver. It will also help with creating parity on expenses if that is an issue.
Don’t forget to harness the power of technology! Create a digital calendar or share tasks across a digital platform to keep everyone on the same page in real-time.
Tip #3: Don’t Forget the Kids
Sharing responsibility doesn’t just need to include the adults in your life. It can and should also include your children. Provide your children with age-appropriate chores and tasks to be completed daily and weekly.
Talk with your children about the importance of their chores and how their contribution is helping to provide care for their beloved grandparents. Use this as a teachable moment to discuss giving back, serving others, and working as a family & team.
Tip #4: Utilize Local Support Services
Many communities offer support to caregivers through respite programs, free resources/webinars, trainings, adult daycare, Meals on Wheels, and other initiatives.
The Administration on Aging oversees a range of nationwide programs to support aging adults. If your parent is a veteran, they may also be eligible for support services from the VA.
If you are local to the greater Atlanta area, take part in a monthly Caregiver Support Group, such as the one held at Berman Commons in Dunwoody on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm. It is free and open to the community.
Virtual sessions and trainings are also available from Jewish Homelife to help guide you on the caregiver journey.
Tip #5: Prepare for Financial Hurdles
Dual caregiving can be very expensive. It’s important to research and review all options and resources that may be available to offer you financial support.
Utilize the National Council on Aging’s Benefits Checkup site to find out what benefits are available to you and your family. Programs may be available to you that cover a wide range of needs, from nutrition to assistance with heating and cooling bills.
Stress concerning financial decisions and caring for loved ones is common. One of the best ways to feel confident and prepared is by proactively researching future needs.
Speak with your loved one’s financial advisor to determine best next steps for providing for their future. Talk candidly with their physician about current and future needs that may arise, including cost. By understanding the challenges and hurdles that may pop up, you eliminate the element of surprise from the equation.
You can also work as a family to save extra funds where possible to help alleviate some of the financial stress. Consider setting up recurring prescription deliveries or Meals on Wheels services. Batch cook and meal prep your meals at home to reduce wasted food and spend.
Tip #6: Know Your Rights
As you work to provide essential care to your loved ones, not just physically but financially, it is important to know your rights as an employee. There are a variety of benefits that you can receive as a caregiver, and protection to you should an emergency arise at home.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal program that is most widely applied instances where caregiving is an essential duty or service that you are providing to a loved one. FMLA offers job security to caregivers who have to take a leave of absence for family medical reasons. While FMLA is an unpaid benefit, you will maintain your access to your health insurance benefits for up to 12 weeks of time off.
Tip #7: Self-Care
Most oftentimes easier said than done, it Is critical for you to practice self-care. Caregivers know that they simply cannot pour from an empty cup. Find something (or things) that help to refill and restore you physically, emotionally, or mentally.
Enjoying a hot cup of coffee, reading before bed, soaking in a warm bath, taking 5 minutes of uninterrupted silence; all of these are examples of self-care. Find something that you can enjoy that refreshes your spirit and prepares you for the day ahead. Then, find something that allows you to relax, unwind, and leave the day behind as you enter an evening of rest.
Self-care doesn’t need to be complex or complicated. Learn to take little moments for yourself to enjoy and restore your energy.
Putting it All Together
Providing care to your aging parents, loved ones, and young children can feel like a lonely uphill climb. But there are resources and services available to come alongside you and provide support and strength for the journey.
As part of our mission, Jewish HomeLife provides education, resources and support for family members navigating the often-confusing array of services available in our community. For more information visit www.JewishHomeLife.org.