Do you find yourself caring for your children as well as looking after aging parents? If so, you are part of “The Sandwich Generation.”
Sometimes everyone is under one roof, sometimes your parents are in the same town, and other times, they are many miles away in different cities. Regardless of their proximity to you, you may worry about their well-being and how you can help them when you are busy raising your own family.
Our children need us to look after them, take an interest in their activities and give emotional support and guidance. As parents age or become ill, they may need help with personal care, financial matters and routine errands and tasks. We may find ourselves stretched thin trying to look after everyone.
The major challenge is to balance our responsibilities with time for ourselves and our own well-being.
Acknowledge Your Feelings: They are Normal
It's not easy to watch parents grow old and perhaps frail. You are likely to feel a whole lot of emotions such as anger, frustration, guilt, resentment, and even grief. While understanding it's normal to feel all these things, it is another thing to not let them consume you and affect your relationships. I know with my own mom, I can feel all these emotions in a very short span of time. I do love my mom very much and find myself grieving for the loss of how she was before she showed symptoms of dementia. I have also come to a place of just accepting that she has a disease and the things that frustrate or anger me are not her fault and I cannot control her disease, only my reactions to it. Accepting this can go a long way to helping you deal with everything.
Taking Care of You
The most important thing we can do as caregivers is take care of ourselves. If we get to a point of being burnt out, we won’t be of any help to those we care for. Set limits, ask for and accept help from others, and take time out for you. I know this is often easier said than done. Do not feel guilty for living your own life too! Set boundaries for what you can and cannot do.
Schedule Activities That Do Not Involve Caregiving
The busier we are looking after everyone, the less time we have to spend with them doing things that you used to enjoy doing together. This can lead to burn out and resentment, and regrets later. Check out what care services may be available in your area to help with their daily needs. This will free up some of your time to get back into doing pleasurable activities with the person you are caring for – whatever that may be!
Tips for Making Life Easier as a Caregiver
Small details can use up a lot of your time, and in many cases, there is another way of accomplishing the tasks.
Here are some ideas you might consider for helping your parents while making your life a little easier. Depending on their living situation and the nature of their health, some of these may not apply, and of course there may be other things you can add to your own list:
- Set up a power of attorney
- Have important mail (insurance papers, tax notices and slips) sent to your address
- Set up automatic bill paying and direct deposits for any cheques that are coming in – fewer details to worry about each month and no trips to the bank
- Have the pharmacy put any medications into handy blister packs labeled with the days and times that they are to be taken to help avoid any confusion
- Get a ‘panic button’ that they wear so that they can get help if they fall or for some reason can’t get to the telephone
- Talk to your parent’s neighbors and ask them to let you know if they see anything of concern
- Get your parents a Medic Alert bracelet to alert health care professional to allergies and special medical needs in case they are unable to and you are not there if something happens
- Arrange for some meals to be brought to them (“meals on wheels”)
Regardless of the how many people we are caring for or the scope of the responsibilities we are dealing with, remember that you can only handle one thing at a time. Don’t expect too much of yourself and be sure to take good care of you!
For more on caregiving and other topics, check out Maternity Corner.