One person called it “a crushing weight”. Others call it “exhausting, overwhelming, and complicated”. These are just some of the words used to describe the caregiving challenges of the sandwich generation.
But who comprises the sandwich generation? And why are they being compared to a sandwich? The sandwich generation describes the growing number of adults who are caring for both their own families and parents. An ageing population and the struggle many young adults face achieving financial independence have created this generation – sandwiched between parents aged 65 and over and their dependent children both minors and adults.
The BBC refers to the phenomenon as a multigenerational squeeze. “Sandwiched individuals, who may or may not be living with the people they’re supporting, look a bit different around the world. In the Philippines, sandwiched women tend to be aged 30 to 35, whereas in England and Wales they’re typically between 45 and 54,” it reports.
This multigenerational squeeze, says the BBC, can be a win for working parents. “Healthy grandparents can be a huge boon… Older parents facilitating especially younger women to stay in the labour market and become more senior and progress is a very important dimension of the sandwich generation.”
But make no mistake, caring for one’s own children while helping a parent (or two) negotiate their specific health challenges can be daunting – emotionally, physically, and financially.
The sandwich generation faces unique challenges, caught between the needs of two other generations. Here are some self-care tips from Right at Home you might consider.
Set boundaries: Sometimes, it is essential to draw clear lines to protect your personal space and time. This can apply to both children and ageing parents.
Get financial counselling: Money matters can get complex. Whether it is planning for your children’s education, your retirement, or elderly care expenses, professional financial advice can be invaluable.
Ask your siblings or other relatives for help: Approach caregiving conversations with as much patience and grace as possible and let your other family members know that their help is both wanted and needed.
Educate your kids: Make sure your children understand the reasons you are stretched thin. When kids are aware of the sacrifices and the challenges, they are often more empathetic and cooperative.
Re-evaluate periodically: As time goes on, your children’s needs, your parents’ health, and your personal situation will change. Regularly take a step back to assess and adjust.
Seek legal advice: Ensure all the necessary documents, like living wills, powers of attorney, or advance directives/advance statements, are in place. An elder law attorney or geriatric care manager can help navigate these areas.
Plan for your own future: Consider the hopes you have for your own old age. Investing time now in planning for your elderly years can ease the burden on your children.
Celebrate small wins: Taking care of two generations can often mean neglecting personal achievements. Take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate small victories.
Stay connected with peers: Remaining connected to friends or colleagues who are not involved in caregiving can provide a fresh perspective and a mental break.
Document precious moments: Capture stories, recipes, life lessons, and memories from your parents. It can be therapeutic for them, informative for your kids, and a cherished legacy for the future.
Know when to let go: Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might need to consider alternative care options for your parents, such as a care home or assisted living facility. Remember, it is about ensuring the best care for your parents, even if you are not providing it directly.
Grieve fully and seek support: When a parent passes away, allow yourself to grieve. Grief is complex and the feelings can intensify when you are also attending to your family’s needs.
The challenges faced by the sandwich generation are significant, but with the right strategies, it is possible to navigate them with grace and tenacity. Remember, it is essential to prioritise self-care, seek support when needed, and recognise the incredible strength and resilience that comes with this unique role.
Right at Home can help alleviate some family caregiving pressures by providing respite care for your loved ones when you need a break.
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Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care), and any adult who needs our care at home including adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no package management fees, Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget.
Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living and personal care such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained, and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one.
To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website.
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