Caring for elderly parents and kids too?
If you have never heard the term sandwich generation, count yourself lucky because you can stop reading now. Maybe save this article for a later date, or maybe you will never need it. If however, you are caring for both children and elderly parents at the same time, you know exactly what I mean.
The Sandwich Generation is “a generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing up their own children and for the care of their aging parents.”Oxford Dictionary
How do I know about this? Because I was (and still am to some degree) in that position. I am a wife and mother to three girls, as well as a daughter. For two years, my Dad and I tried to take care of my Mom who has dementia at home, until he became sick himself and passed away. This left my brother and I with no choice but to place my Mom in a nursing home, which was not an easy decision.. We are still in charge of everything else except her day to day care.
Think back to how when you first became a parent and you thought it was hard (it is). The reality is that was just training wheels compared to caring for elderly parents and kids at the same time! If you find yourself in the roll of caring for both ends of the spectrum, welcome to the club. Here are some ideas to make it easier on you, while you are in the thick of it.
Ask for Help
The key to keeping your sanity is to ask for help and accept it. As someone who prides herself on being able to take care of everything myself, this was a hard one to do. However, I soon learned from a pure exhaustion standpoint that it wasn’t feasible to not accept help. Even Martha Stewart couldn’t pull this one off without help.
Enlist Your Kids
I became a Mom for the first time later in life – but most of us will be in this situation when our kids are old enough to help take care of themselves. My girls were teen and preteen when this happened to our family, and the necessity of having to take care of somethings themselves helped them to grow.
See if you can find aid locally while caring for elderly parents
There are more resources available than ever to help caregivers stuck in this situation. It can feel very lonely and isolating in the middle of it – but there are people to help you. You aren’t in this alone.
For more information on where you can find aid in your area – please check out your local support groups through “AARP – Important Resources for Caregivers” or see “10 Government Resources Every Caregiver Should Know About”.
automate as much of your everyday life as possible
One way to stay on top of your situation as much as possible is to automate the tasks you do everyday. You are going to need systems and routines to aid you for laundry, meals – preparation, planning, and shopping, etc.
You are going to need this because life doesn’t stop in the midst of a crisis. Your kids are still going to expect you to come up with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here are several resources to make it easier for you to get a handle on all of it:
Dial back anything not necessary
When things are crazy, you may have to scale back on unnecessary items. One possible area would be volunteering for new projects at work or programs at your kids school. You know you are giving more than you ever have before – it is just channeled in a different direction,
Other parents may not understand why you suddenly can’t chaperone the field trip or make homemade snacks and that is okay. If they are ever in your shoes, they will suddenly realize what was going on. Any projects around your home that can wait like organizing or redecorating, will just have to wait.
Add in some me-time
You really need to take care of your most important resource to care for your entire family – YOU! To take adequate care of you, prioritize for yourself regular free time to release stress. Because caring for all is stressful – just from the level of things you are going through and are responsible for – this is uncharted territory for most of us.
Going through a time of caring for elderly parents and children, there are lots of things to learn and it can feel like drinking from a fire hose. You will feel overwhelmed at times from the sheer enormity of the task.
You are also going to have a lot of emotions to process. On one side, you still have your immediate growing family and you don’t want to miss any of the day to day miracles that occur there. On the other side, you have the end of an era and possibly the end stage of life of your parents. This can be very hard to deal with and a difficult time for all involved. Please seek the help of a professional therapist if it is too much for you. They can help you!
Not sure where to start to help yourself? No problem, I’ve been there too. Check out these resources for ideas:
- 25 Ways to Recharge Yourself
- Expressing Yourself as a Form of Self-Care
- Self-Care Areas for Women You Need to Know
- Why is Self-Care so Important?
- How to Find Time to Relax When You are Overwhelmed
If you are in this situation, just take a deep breath and know you are not alone. I would love to hear more from you, just leave me a comment below.