If your life feels anything like Paula’s then it’s highly likely that you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation – caught between caring for aging parents and kids of your own – and probably feeling harassed, fatigued and pretty overwhelmed (if you’re honest).
Well guess what? You’re not alone! They call it the ‘Sandwich Generation’ because there are hundreds of thousands of Australian women out there like you right now dealing with the very same issues. In fact research shows that as parents age, the caregiving responsibilities more often than not fall to the eldest adult daughter. In other words…you and probably a number of your friends.
And as the responsibility for caring of your parents increases as they get older, so does your complete lack of time to manage any of the other important things in your life like going to work, taxiing kids to and from sport and even making just a little time for yourself. This then in turn makes it harder and harder to cope as you’re not only feeling terrible about the fact that you’re not able to be there for your mum or dad as much as you should, but also that you’re neglecting your kids/husband/friends/job/dog/everybody else in the world who needs you.
But fear not. The wonderful thing about being part of this generation is that you are all incredibly good at finding new and effective ways to cope.
Here’s 3 of the best coping strategies that have been shared with us by women just like you:
1. Know when to ask for HELP and accept it when it’s offered
Stop trying to do it alone! It might seem like you have no other choice right now, but believe us…you do. Whether it’s picking up the phone to another family member to ask them to take your mum grocery shopping or accepting Matthew’s mum’s offer to drop your son home from soccer practice on Friday, the only way you’re going feel less overwhelmed is if you ask for help and accept it when it’s offered!
Sandwich Generationers do a great job of looking like they have everything under control ALL THE TIME, so those around them often just assume this is the case. The key to getting your sanity back and making time to get the important things done is to get comfortable with the idea of seeking support. But what if you don’t feel right about asking for help from family and friends? Well you can get in touch with full-service in-home care provider, Five Good Friends and we can manage your parents’ care needs for you so that you can focus on taking care of yourself and your own children.
2. Maintain awareness of the impact of your caregiving on your own wellbeing
Because you’re used to spending so much time giving to others, its easy to get into a pattern and lifestyle were you put yourself a the bottom of your ’to-do’ list. Because you are spending so much time in tune with the emotions of those you’re caring for, you can completely forget to notice your own and in turn neglect important warning signs that could lead to longer term emotional and physical health problems.
So how do you ensure maintain awareness of the impact of your caregiving on your own wellbeing to ensure you’re seeking help when needed? Journaling is a great way to sort out your feelings, track trends and develop ideas for coping with the stress you’re under.
This Wellbeing Chart (Page 5)
from A Place for Mom which will help you to get all those thoughts and concerns down in writing. It’s a simple, flexible method of self-reflection that you can choose to do either regularly or whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
3. Get your kids involved in caring for the family
The more your children understand about your family’s caring responsibilities, the more comfortable they’ll feel. The best way to teach them is to involve them, so think about ways your children can help you and your partner care for your elderly relatives. Whether its your daughter bringing Grandma a cup of tea when she visits or your older son driving Great Uncle Phil to his doctor’s appointment, give your kids the opportunity to be involved. Helping seniors in your family (and you in turn by sharing the load) will help them feel important increase the demands that you are working through every day.
It’s also important to keep your children updated with any changes related to your aging parents by providing age-appropriate information. Kids can sense when things are wrong or when your stress levels increase so try to be as open as possible about what is going on within your family. If someone has a fall or is unwell, explain this calmly and simply to your children as and when it happens. You’ll be surprised how much ‘just knowing’ decreases their anxiety and increase their willingness to help out and support each other.
Need help caring for aging parents? Get in touch with Five Good Friends.
We’re Australia’s first Successful Aging Platform that gives families a trusted, easy way to manage their older parents’ care and keep them in the homes they love for longer.