If you are an adult caring for an aging parent while also raising a family of your own, the back-to-school rush likely means your “To Do List” is long and your days are hectic. It also means you are a member of the sandwich generation, one of the in this country who are sandwiched between caregiving for two generations of your family.
According to Mental Health America, an estimated 23 percent of U.S. adults are sandwich generation caregivers. While there are definite rewards in being able to lend a hand to your family’s elders, it can make the days stressful ones. As the kids return to school for another busy year, it’s important to find balance as a caregiver.
Finding Balance While Caring for Loved Ones
Here are a few tips we think will help caregivers juggling busy days without putting their own health and well-being at risk:
Ask for and accept help: Caregivers are often reluctant to ask for help or to accept it when friends and family offer. But the reality is, caring for two generations at the same time is nearly impossible to do without support. This is especially true if you work outside the home, too. Give yourself permission this school year, to accept help when it is offered, and to also seek out new avenues for assistance. A few ideas to consider might be to sign your up for a senior meal delivery service or coordinate carpooling for your children’s afterschool activities.
Spend time getting organized: Caregivers often find the paperwork, appointments, and activity calendars involved with caring for both children and parents to be overwhelming. It’s easy to find yourself creating stacks of things like medical information and financial papers in hopes of sorting through them later. To avoid missing an important deadline or overlooking an appointment, try to set aside a few hours at the start of the new school year to create a filing system and joint calendar to keep everything in order. While it might be challenging to carve this time out of your busy schedule, it will save you more time and stress in the long run.
Take care of yourself: When you are busy and your task list is long, it’s easy to put your own well-being on the back burner. While you may be able to get away with doing so for a short while, it probably won’t be for very long. Over time, you put your own health at risk. Resolve to take small steps toward better self-care. For example, if you haven’t seen your doctor for more than a year, schedule an appointment for a physical. Practice 10 minutes of meditation before you get in the shower in the morning. Schedule outings with friends once or twice a month.
Set reasonable expectations: Finding a healthy balance also requires caregivers to be reasonable in what they can and can’t do. Prioritize what’s most important and give those items your attention. Though it likely means compromising on some things you might feel like you should do, remember that it’s not forever. Once the kids are a little older or if your parent decides to move to an assisted living community, you’ll have more time again.
Utilize respite services: One final tip is to take advantage of short-term respite programs at a local senior living community. They are a great option if you’d like to take a vacation with your family, but a loved one isn’t safe staying alone. Communities often offer respite for seniors who require assisted living and memory care services.
If you’d like to learn more about senior living or respite care, we invite you to call Sunrise at 888-717-9139. One of our experienced team members will help you explore nearby options and schedule a time for a personal tour of a community of interest.