Do you care for your children as well as help out with your aging parents? If so, you can count yourself a member of the ‘sandwich generation’.
If you find yourself at the end of the day feeling drained and worrying about not doing enough, then demands of cross generational caregiving could be getting the better of you.
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If you find yourself being ‘squashed’ in the sandwich, there are tips and techniques to help you cope – here’s our top 8:
1. Use your support network
While nothing will take your stress away completely, sometimes just venting your frustration can help. Talk to other family members and friends about what you’re dealing with. Or join a local support group. You’ll often find that other people in your life are going through similar situations. You can act as a support system for one another when things get particularly challenging.
2. A burden shared is a burden halved
You may handle most of the care duties, but that doesn’t mean you need to do absolutely everything yourself. Stop stressing and start delegating.
If your kids are capable, you can even get them to pitch in to some degree and help with household chores. As your children get older, try to encourage them to help out more. This not only lifts the burden off you a little but teaches your kids to be more independent.
Ask your siblings to help out by dealing with your dad’s financial paperwork or taking your mother to the store. Then you can switch gears and have more time for painting with your kids — or taking a much-needed nap!
3. Prioritize what matters
You are one person and there are 24 hours in a day. Those two numbers won’t change. Make a list of all of the things you think need to be done. Then prioritize them. What can you cut out? How can you minimize your workload each day?
4. Hire some help
If volunteers aren’t lining up to help, hiring an extra hand may be the answer you were looking for. Find senior care to help your mom while you take your son to hockey practice. Hire a babysitter to watch your kids while you take your dad to the doctor. Or even just get a housekeeper to clean your home, so you can focus on your family.
5. Talk to your boss
Do you have a job in addition to your carer responsibilities? Talk to your boss about switching to a more flexible schedule.
6. Practice self-care
If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to properly take care of others. Plain and simple. Still, it can be easy to forget about self-care when caught up in your daily jam-packed schedule. Self-care comes in many forms, including making sure you get exercise, proper nutrition, sleep and regular doctor appointments. Attending to your own physical and mental health will make you that much more capable of caring for those you love.
7. Update the family collectively
Being a carer often means that other family members probably pester you with well-meaning requests for updates, which just adds even more stress to your over-taxed schedule. Your sister wants to know how your mom’s blood pressure is doing. Your cousin wants to see pictures of your kids. If you can provide these updates to everyone at once, though, you’ll lower your stress level significantly.
Send a group e-mail or text with photos or health updates. For more details, you can also use Google Drive to create a document or spreadsheet that everyone has access to and can update.
8. Self development
As hard as it might sound, just being in the moment and trying to enjoy life as it is can help take the edge off of your stress. It’s okay to take some time for yourself on a regular basis. In fact, it’s necessary! Give yourself permission to do at least one thing for yourself every day — just because you enjoy it. Whether it’s watching an episode of your favourite show, going to a yoga class or reading a novel, put yourself first. Then you can come back to your caring duties with fresh eyes.
And when all else fails, take a step back and breathe.
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