Sandwiched Between Kids & Aging Parents?
Baby Boomers were the first true “sandwich generation,” and thus the first to suffer through the many and varied difficulties of caring for both young children and elderly parents. A 2013 Pew Research Center report found that 47% of adults had a parent age 65 or older and were raising a young child and/or supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). Many of them are also holding down full-time jobs. It’s a recipe for physical and psychological disaster.
A recent CNBC article quoted a middle-aged Missouri woman who was dealing with a chronically ill mother: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. At the height of it, I was probably spending 40 hours a week on my mom—paying bills, talking to doctors, visiting her, medicines—and trying to work 30 to 40 hours a week and take care of the house and two kids.”
Her story is a common one — as is the feeling of being overwhelmed, overworked, and continually exhausted. Something always needs to be done — braces for the kids, a new wheelchair for mom, a summer camp for the kids, an assisted living facility for dad. Balancing meetings with guidance counselors and occupational therapists. Scheduling campus visits in between hospital appointments. It often feels like there is nowhere to turn for help. Even worse, guilt often pops its ugly head and we feel like we’re not doing enough no matter how much we actually do. There are two relatively easy ways to alleviate these feelings of frustration and burnout.
The first is to make sure you’re taking care of yourself:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one can do it all and there’s no shame in admitting that. Eliminating just one task a day can provide a moment of downtime to relax and re-energize.
- Stay nourished by eating healthy foods. It’s easy to rely on fast foods when life seems out of control, but going down that high-fat, high-calorie path will negatively affect your own health.
- Exercise. You may feel like you’re constantly moving — but you’re probably not doing anything that qualifies as exercise. Take a moment to walk around the block, do some stretches, and get your heart moving.
- Be mindful and aware. Even during its darkest moments, the world is a glorious and precious place. Open all your senses to appreciate the smells of freshly mown grass and the sound of a baby’s giggle. Take joy whenever and wherever you find it.
- Feel good about what you’re doing. You’re helping people you love — and that’s a positive. In the years ahead you’ll be glad you helped as much as possible.
- Consider counseling. Any kind of caregiving — whether for a child or ill parent — is stressful. Talking with a trained therapist can help you cope with and balance the various demands on your time.
The second way to alleviate stress and avoid burnout is to hire support professionals who can lessen the burden of caring for an infirm loved one. Most of these types of professionals are widely known: doctors, visiting nurses, caregivers, physical therapists, social workers, and the like. But there’s another support professional who can significantly increase your peace of mind — a Care Manager.
Care Managers provide a holistic perspective on every aspect of the patient’s care. Working with the patient, family members, and caregivers, Care Managers coordinate care between all involved parties — physicians, pharmacists, home care specialists and therapists. A Care Manager will help monitor expenses, reduce time commitments and stress for the family, and eliminate oversights by clarifying treatment plans, medication regimens and compliance, insurance coverage, and other patient needs.
It’s easy to get caught in the weeds and lose sight of the big picture when providing care to a parent or other family member. We tend to focus on the moment and deal with issues as they arise. Being reactive instead of proactive, however, can be especially dangerous when dealing with medical issues. A Care Manager will help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Most importantly for your own well-being, a Care Manager can provide a moment for you to take a deep breath, close your eyes, remember the good times you’ve experienced and look forward to all the good times the future holds.