Caring For Aging Parents? How The Sandwich Generation Can Thrive
Here's how the sandwich generation can thrive, even if you're caring for aging parents and children at the same time
The term ‘Sandwich Generation’ is becoming more common in today’s world. It refers to adults who are raising children while also caring for their aging parents. Raising children can be challenging enough without the added stress of taking care of the wonderful people who raised you.
If you’ve found that you’re part of this Sandwich Generation, you might be one parent-teacher conference away from pulling out your hair and fleeing to Tibet to live as a monk. Here are some tips and tricks to make raising your children and your parents a little bit easier so you can thrive.
1. Forget the Guilt
When you’re lying in bed at night, do you cycle through all the things you should have done during the day? Like washing the dishes that are still sitting in the sink, or pulling the laundry out of the dryer — or rewashing it because you forgot it in the washing machine?
These thoughts and many like them are manifestations of guilt — an emotion you don’t need and don’t deserve. There are only so many hours in the day. The dishes will wait. The laundry will be fine. Stop feeling guilty for not being Superman or being able to move at the speed of light so that you can finish everything you think should be done.
Is everyone fed, clothed, happy, and healthy? If so, stop beating yourself up. The chores will be there tomorrow.
2. Ask for Help
Just because the people you’re caring for are your children and your parents doesn’t mean you should be shouldering this weight alone — ask for help. You might be surprised how many people are willing to step up and assist you if you can swallow your pride for five minutes and ask for their help.
Once you’ve asked, make sure you accept help that’s offered. This could be as simple as asking another family member to cook you a meal or wash a load of laundry, or as complicated as investing in an in-home nurse to care for your parents when you’re not able to.
3. Keep Your Kids Involved
As your children get older and more independent, you might think you can transfer more of your attention to caring for your parents. What you should do instead is keep them involved regardless of their age. Letting them help with simple things — like getting grandma a glass of water or keeping her company — can help reduce their fear and anxiety about the situation.
Caring for an aging parent can be the hardest thing in the world. Getting your kids involved will help them stay close with their grandparents while letting them come to terms with the situation on their own.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Repeat after us: I’m only human. Taking one or both of your parents into your home is an enormous responsibility. There’s a reason elder care is an entire sector of the health care industry — it’s hard to do on your own.
You are not a superhero, and no one should expect you to be. Make sure you’re taking the time to take care of yourself as well. Get a babysitter or ask a family member to stay the night so that you can go out to a movie with your significant other. Take a bubble bath and have a glass of wine once everyone is in bed. Go to the doctor when you get sick instead of just stocking up on throat lozenges and DayQuil and toughing it out.
Taking care of yourself means you’re happy and healthy enough to take care of others. Self-care is just as important — maybe even more so — as taking care of those who you love. There’s a reason that, in the event of a crash on an airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting anyone else. You can only help others if you’re helping yourself first.
Being part of the Sandwich Generation is becoming more and more common, as elderly parents can’t afford to stay in a nursing home or refuse to move to an assisted-living facility. If you find yourself in this situation, remember that you’re only human. It’s common for caretakers to put everyone else ahead of themselves, spreading themselves too thin and ending up sick or even in the hospital themselves.
Feel free to open your home up to the aging members of your family, but don’t neglect yourself in your quest to care for them. This situation isn’t just hard for you — it can be hard for your children too, so make it easier by keeping them informed and involved.