Life expectancy in the USA has increased. At the same time, many young adults struggle to achieve financial independence. Consequently, many adults are caring for a parent over 65 years of age and either raising a child below the age of 18 or financially supporting an adult child. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2021, these “sandwich generation” adults comprise almost a quarter (23%) of adults in the USA. Here are some tips for caregivers living in the sandwich generation.
Create your network
It is much easier to pull out your list rather than thinking of whom to call in a crisis. Therefore, create a network—a list of people you could call on if you need assistance picking a child up from school, picking up medications, etc. Have a quick conversation with the people on your list. Tell them about your idea of creating a network and that you would like for them to be on the list. You might be surprised by how many people are willing to help you in a pinch.
Don’t neglect yourself
When other people need you, it can be easy to neglect yourself. You may have so many responsibilities that taking time for yourself or doing something that you enjoy may feel self-indulgent, but it is not. The best thing you can do for yourself and your loved one is to stay positive, energetic, and strong, and you can only do this if you are taking care of yourself! We all intend to take care of ourselves, but life so often intervenes. Set a schedule for ‘me time” and mark it on your calendar.
Taking care of yourself, your children, and your aging parents is challenging. You may also have a job or other commitments to balance. Maybe you are also a single parent. Being in the sandwich generation is a new experience. Look at the S. Health and Human Services website (www.longtermcare.gov) for caregiving resources. Talk to financial advisors about how to devise a strategy for higher expenses. The National Council on Aging Benefits Checkup might also be helpful. (https://www.ncoa.org/article/how-to-boost-your-budget-a-guide-for-older-adults). The Alzheimer’s Association website is full of valuable information. (www.alz.org).
Trust your inner voice
Sandwich generation (and probably all) caregivers receive lots of advice from well-intentioned people. However, these people may not know your loved one as you do. Don’t worry about pleasing other people. Everyone’s situation is unique. What works for others may not work in your situation. Do your research but follow your own inner voice regarding how best to care for your loved one.
Being a sandwich generation caregiver is demanding and can be a long, overwhelming, and intensely stressful journey. However, it can also be rewarding. For example, you have the opportunity to teach your children about loving an older relative with a disease. You may also develop a closeness to your aging parent that you never experienced. Caregiving may also be a satisfying experience. Reminding yourself of positive aspects of caregiving will help you adapt and bounce back from the demands of caregiving, which in turn will help you to build resilience.
Serving as the primary caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging experience, particularly for those in the sandwich generation. However, building resilience by remaining positive and taking care of yourself will help you bounce back and adapt to these difficult circumstances.
After her family’s journey through Alzheimer’s, author Mary Moreland was determined to help fellow caregivers by sharing her experience in The Gap Between: Loving and Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s (Brown Books Publishing Group). Alongside her own story of loss, the author delivers insights on protecting and grieving for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s and provides practical advice on navigating critical matters including legal documentation, diagnostic and educational resources, preparation for and accepting deterioration, and the end-of-life experience. Read The Gap Between for more ideas and tips on how to build resilience in caregiving.