If you’re caring for aging parents while also raising your own family or supporting adult children (and even grandchildren), finding ways to care for yourself is essential.
With people living longer and record numbers of adult children moving back home during the COVID-19 pandemic, pressures have increased on the “sandwich generation.” This is the growing group of adults sandwiched between supporting their parents and their kids as well as themselves. In America, about 47 percent of adults between the ages of 40 and 59 have a parent age 65 or older and are also raising or supporting at least one child. Although many of us willingly take on the care of those we love, it isn’t always easy.
Finding balance when you are responsible for the health and well-being of not one, but two or more generations can seem impossible. Adding in your career, other relationships and daily tasks to the mix can make life overwhelming. It’s no wonder that many in this position find themselves mentally and physically stressed. If this sounds familiar, remember: You cannot pour from an empty cup.
If you neglect your own health and well-being, it will almost certainly lead to burnout and even resentment. Stress, regardless of where it is coming from, cannot be ignored. It can lead to serious health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. To care for others, you must prioritize your own needs and health so you have the energy and empathy to truly be of help to others.
Check in … with yourself!
It may seem selfish at first, but your needs have to come first. Making your own health a priority will not only give you the energy to keep up with your caretaking responsibilities, but will also give you the peace of mind that you are doing what’s best for everyone involved.
Are you getting enough sleep? Eating well? When is the last time you went to the doctor? Make the necessary changes so that you can be healthy and present to care for your loved one. Remember to take some personal time so that you can find enjoyment in your day. Take a short walk, read a good book or visit with friends to recharge.
Ask for help
It may sometimes feel like it, but you are not alone.
- Most likely, your children and partner can take on more responsibility at home to free up some time and energy that you can spend on your own needs.
- When caring for older parents, consider asking siblings and other family members to help. Split up chores, appointments or even set up shifts. If siblings are far away, ask them to visit and take over for a few days.
- If family is not an option, then seek support from a home healthcare organization, even if it’s just part time. McLean Home Care offers experienced nurses and medical social workers, called care consultants, who can help you put together a well-thought-out plan or set up convenient service arrangements for an aging parent.
- Join a support group. Talking to others about the unique challenges you face can help alleviate some of the stress and offer a network of ideas and support. There are many online support groups on Facebook. To find more specific support groups, organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association can be helpful resources.
- Talk to your employer about flexible hours or support services so you can stay productive and still care for your loved ones.
Finding balance is possible, even when you are “sandwiched” between caring for two generations. Prioritize your needs and remember to rest, recharge and refill when your cup is empty.