Don’t Let the Sandwich Take a Bite Out of YOU! -
If you’re raising or supporting children while caring for older parents, you don’t need to go to the deli for a sandwich, you’re living in one. In fact, you may feel like you’re squeezed in a Panini machine!
According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.
Being a member of the sandwich generation does not have to deplete you. Here are 8 tips to help when you’re spread thin.
Open up the communication. Talking with family about elder assistance and changing roles is not easy. One of the most difficult conversations concerns finances. Throw in insurance, medical issues and legal decisions and you may want to bury your head in the sand. If these topics bring on difficult interactions, consider including a neutral party or an expert in conversations.
Speaking of experts. Book time with a financial planner, an insurance specialist, medical personnel and a legal advisor regarding plans for your loved ones and for yourself. This sounds daunting but it’s the best way to free yourself of worries about the unknown. Other valuable experts are family and friends already pressed into sandwich duty. They possess a wealth of knowledge and sharing it adds more meaning to their caregiving.
Organize your time. Record a log of all family activities for a week so you can see where time is spent. Also, a weekly priority list shared with the family can help everyone think ahead. Consider setting up a shared online calendar that can be updated from cell phones.
Take care of your body. Remember that old saying, "If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?" Apply it to your body. If you become unhealthy due to the pressures of caregiving, you’ll be unable to give care. It may seem impossible to squeeze in eating right, exercising and a good night’s sleep, so back to that family calendar you created and block off time for healthy pursuits. Enlisting those you care for to participate or support you are other ways to build good health.
Feed your spirit. Being a caretaker is empowering when you are supported in prayer, through worship and with pastoral care. The ability to see what you are doing as a calling and a blessing to those you serve, will open your heart to the spiritual gifts you receive by giving so much of yourself.
Let others help. It is crucial to ask for and welcome others’ assistance when you are in the sandwich. Make a list of tasks you’d like to offload, that way when someone says, "How can I help?" you are at the ready with some ideas.
Vent and accept. There are a lot of emotions tied to family roles not to mention sadness when loved ones are not their "old selves" or are suffering. Spend time with a trusted companion and let it all go. Mark Twain said, "Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." Tears and frustrations are normal and bottling them up causes more pain over time. Releasing things by sharing is the first step on the road to acceptance. This new role as caretaker to your children AND your parents is truly difficult but knowing that this is a season and seasons change. It’s best to let go of the bad where you can and embrace the joy where you find it.
Laugh! Take any laugh you can get and enjoy it! Laughter relaxes the body, boosts the immune system, releases feel-good endorphins and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. If you can laugh at least once a day, the sandwich won’t seem so challenging and your body, mind and soul will be strengthened.
Living life as a caregiver and provider for both young and old is not for the faint of heart. Seeking and installing the tools you need while you’re looking after loved ones will allow you more control and enjoyment. One day, you’ll look back and be thankful for the many experiences and lessons you gained and as time passes, you’ll find it was a great honor to be "sandwiched."
When is it Time to Move? -
The holidays are drawing to a close and after family time, you may be aware of changes in older relatives’ capabilities. How do you when help is really needed and when it’s time for a move?
Some good questions to ask are...
- Do they manage their finances with ease?
- Do they leave home for outings and activities?
- How are their driving skills? If they don’t drive, do they utilize other forms of transportation?
- Do they cook and prepare meals?
- Are they communicating via phone, computer or snail mail?
- Do they keep up with regular medical and dental appointments?
If a person is able to perform most of these duties on their own -- or with periodic help filling in the gaps -- they are still capable of living independently. However, if they are losing ground in these areas, even with outside help, it may be time to consider a senior living community.
The bare minimum skills we perform as we travel through life are the things that if lost, signal more care is necessary. If you notice one or more of the following, it is definitely time to consider a move to assisted living:
- Inactive and isolated
- An inability to dress themselves
- Immobility within the home - unable to get up and down stairs, for example, or frequent falls
- Unable to bath or shower without assistance
- Not maintaining personal hygiene
- Not taking medication properly
- Unable to get out of bed or up from a chair
- Poor nutrition
- Memory loss
It’s difficult to realize that a loved one is no longer safe living alone or has lost the ability to care for themselves. Take it one step at a time. A good place to start is keeping a log or diary of how they are doing with life skills. This will help you see needs in order to consider the next step. It will also aid cooperation with your loved one and other family members as you explore a plan of action.
These changes are not simple but please remember, you are not alone. Living options for your loved one are varied, effective, and can be tailored to their needs. The move may take some time, but once done, you and your loved one can relax in the knowledge that everyone is safe and sound!
To learn more about Fowler’s senior living options, call 214.827.0813 o email firstname.lastname@example.org
New Memories in the Making -
Creating memories for loved ones in their golden years is just as important as when they were young. Reminiscing about the past fills time for many retirees and here are some fresh ideas for fun experiences to look back on:
Book time with young techies. Sharing about technology is a great way for children and teens to interact with grandparents. Youthful experts at social media, smart phones and digital photography can open new worlds for their elders. Showing a grandparent the stress-relieving qualities of cat videos on YouTube or how to play games like “Words with Friends,” are wonderful ways to build new remembrances.
Cozy up to giving back. Mindful moments serving others are not soon forgotten. If animals are a fondness, check local animal orphanages for opportunities to socialize homeless cats and dogs. Loving on needy pets is sure to develop warm memories. Public schools and libraries are often in need of volunteers for tutoring or literacy programs and seniors often have time to spare. Those with a knowledge of gardening will be welcome experts at the community gardens cropping up in most cities to support hunger-aid organizations.
Take a field trip. Getting out with your loved one to a museum or cultural event is a beautiful memory to create. If abilities are compromised, a little planning ahead will help ease transportation and validate handicap accessibility. Pretending to be critics over coffee after the theater or a movie is a fun way to instill the experience.
Unleash creativity. Abilities may have changed eliminating some hobbies for older adults but collaborating on creativity is a fun experience to look back on. Recent trends like “grownup” coloring books and group painting classes can combine with family time for a special experience. Getting back into the kitchen or workshop with your loved one, planning a meal or project and asking for their guidance and expertise, is sure to boost them as well as give them a treasured thought to look back on.
Cherished memories have the power to comfort and inspire, giving seniors the joy and resilience they richly deserve. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of gathering a few positive remembrances for yourself!