Many adults between the ages of 35 and 55 find themselves faced with a unique challenge. Rather than enjoying the gradual decrease in responsibility that comes with children growing up and leaving home, the sandwich generation finds themselves facing even greater caregiving responsibilities. Increasing numbers of individuals within this age bracket find themselves simultaneously caring for their own children (and potentially grandchildren) while needing to care for their aging, ailing parents as well.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic. Here are a few tips to help you out.
1. Take time for you – While it may seem selfish and anti-productive to set aside personal time, you need it. Give yourself an hour each day to do something you want to do. This will keep you fresher, less prone to stress, and less prone to burnout.
2. Accept help – Your family members see that you are under a lot of pressure with the added caregiving responsibilities. Don’t try to do everything yourself, let your loved ones help you carry the load.
3. Talk to your employer – With the added responsibilities often comes unusual time restrictions. Talk to your employer and see if they are willing to work with you as far as a more flexible schedule. Some employers are now allowing people to go in early, stay late, or even work a day remotely from home. You never know what they will do until you ask.
4. Talk to your loved one’s doctor – If you are caregiving for a parent, likely that means they have a medical need prompting the caregiving. Be sure to keep in touch with his or her doctor to understand what’s going on. Ask for alternatives and suggestions. This can be a great resource for you as you head into new territory.
5. Talk to your doctor – You need to keep you healthy now more than ever. Be sure to visit your doctor regularly to discuss your health, your stress levels, and your concerns.
6. Be realistic – At the end of the day, you’re only human, and there’s only so much you can do. Understand your limits and thrive within them. Be conscious of new projects and time demands. Learn to use the word “no”, and stick to your guns. Its time to develop a new routine that works for you and your family. Have everyone pitch in to get what needs to be done in the time you have available.
7. Assign chores – If you’ve done it all in the past, realize that may not happen in the future. Create a chores list for everyone in the family. While most household chores seem to fall on mom and dad, bring the kids into the loop too. Cleaning their rooms, emptying the dishwasher, and helping with the laundry are no longer optional, they are required. Make sure your elderly loved ones feel useful too. While they may not be able to do all chores, put them in charge of what they can manage. It will make them feel like they are needed, and an important part of this new family unit.