According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly a quarter of U.S. parents find themselves struggling as part of the “sandwich generation,” those who are caught in a squeeze as they tackle caring for both their own parents and their children.
Being a multigenerational caregiver can be a financial, logistical, and emotional challenge to say the least. Add to that the stigma in the U.S. of care work being considered the responsibility of the family, coupled with moral judgments on what it really means to be a good parent or child. And yet, the burden of providing care to two generations is only expected to grow because not only are the number of people aged 65 and older projected to significantly increase by 2050, but Americans are continuing the trend of having children later in life as well.
SO WHAT CAN CAREGIVERS IN THE SANDWICH GENERATION DO?
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. It may seem counterintuitive, but prioritizing self-care is extremely important for caregivers. This can even be as simple as prioritizing your meals, drinking water, and sleeping as regularly as possible. But it is also important to make time for activities you enjoy so you can sustain your own mental health and sanity. Remember, you can’t take care of others properly when you aren’t taking care of yourself.
EMBRACE COMMUNITY SUPPORT. Finding support and utilizing community resources can be a complete game changer for caregivers. Community relationships can come from something as simple as accepting an extra set of hands when they’re offered, to signing up for programs in your community that provide assistance services. It can also be important for caregivers to connect with each other because who will better understand what you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis than someone in your shoes? So, seek out support groups or have open conversations with people in your life who you know are dealing with similar stresses.
SHARE THE LOAD. Caregiving tasks can be delegated. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask other family members for help. Consider also reaching out to friends and neighbors. You may be surprised how willing those close to you are to lend a hand and offer support when you need it the most. And, assuming it fits into your budget, you can also seek out hired help for tasks that are adding stress, simply because you never seem to have time – like cleaning the house.
At the end of the day, care doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. There are ways for caregivers to ease their stress while still being there to care for the ones they love.
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