Sandwich Generation Stress
You always wanted kids and a successful career, even knowing that would be a difficult balancing act. But somehow you didn’t think about the fact that your parents might start needing more care before your kids head off to college or you reach retirement age. Now, between work, your kids, and your parents, you have enough responsibilities for at least three people.
You’re not alone. According to a report from the AARP, 44% of people in the U.S. in the 45-55 age range have both aging parents or in-laws and children still living with them. The media’s dubbed this group the “sandwich generation,” squeezed on both sides by the needs of the generations that came before and after.
7 Methods to Alleviate Caregiver Stress
No matter how much you love your kids and parents, trying to care for everyone at once is stressful. Giving into stress will only make everything you have to deal with harder, so you have to find healthy ways to cope with it all.
Schedule time for a break.
When you’re doing the work of figuring out who needs what and when to fit it all in, don’t forget yourself. What do you need to keep yourself from burning out? Time for a long bath each day, a trip to the movies, or a consistent exercise routine? Don’t let everything else you have to do edge out the activities you know are most important for you.
Find a support group (or even just a support person).
Every problem feels a little more manageable when you can talk to someone else who knows what you’re going through. Research local support groups for caregivers or ask around to find someone else dealing with similar responsibilities. A safe space where you can talk about your feelings and even complain about everything you have to deal with without judgment can help you leave some of that frustration behind before you come back to your family.
Keep a record of the good moments.
When you’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to focus on the bad. Make a point of noticing the good as well. On the one hand, having kids and parents to take care of means a lot of work. On the other, it means you have an abundance of love and special moments in your life. Take pictures and write down your memories of special moments so you can always return your thoughts to them when things start to feel tough.
Bring both sides of the sandwich together.
Depending on the age and health of all involved parties, you might find a solution to some of your stress in the very people helping to cause it. Can your mom or dad play babysitter while you go grab dinner with friends? Can your kids help with caring for your parents, or pick up the slack in other ways like cleaning up the house? Don’t accept that it always has to be you doing everything, delegate to your loved ones so the work gets spread around.
Don’t feel bad passing off some of the work.
Be willing to hire or ask for help. If friends and family members can’t offer much help, look into what types of hired help you can afford. Babysitters, housecleaners, and home healthcare providers can all help take a huge load off of your back if you let them.
See if working from home is an option.
Not every type of job allows for the option of telecommuting, but many do and a growing number of companies are allowing their employees the added flexibility of working from home. Talk to your boss to see if it could be a possibility for you. Even if your company only allows it for one or two days a week, it could make a big difference to your stress levels.
Stop with the “sorries.”
Don’t feel guilty for not being perfect. Guilt isn’t an emotion that accomplishes much, but it’s one we all tend to feel a lot of anyway. Avoid saying “sorry” except for in cases where it’s really merited. You’re doing a lot. Let yourself feel proud for getting it done and let the guilt slide if now and then you don’t.
July is Sandwich Generation Month. Are you a sandwich generation caregiver? Share your experience and tips for reducing stress in the comments!