Many baby boomers are finding themselves sandwiched between two worlds–caring for and raising their own children, while also being responsible for their aging parents. For those who waited to have their own children until they were older, or have had large families and still have children at home, who are also finding themselves responsible for aging parents who have developed health problems or dementia, the stress and reality of trying to hold all these worlds together can be overwhelming.
Trying to raise children, manage a household and work a full time job outside the home is challenging enough, but throw in the additional responsibilities of caring for aging parents or grandparents and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. As this situation becomes increasingly normal, however, support groups and classes on how to survive in the “sandwich generation” are springing up in various towns, cities and communities.
The important thing for anyone who finds themselves in this situation is to seek and get help. It is just too overwhelming to be parenting both one’s children and one’s parents without a support system, respite care and help. And, a good sense of humor about the situation doesn’t hurt either. Experts suggest that caregivers find a support group, if possible, and seek out social support so they are able to keep a life that exists outside of caring for children, home and older parents.
Additionally important is learning how to balance necessities and let things go. Some things are just not worth fussing and battling over and only so much can be done in a day’s time. Instead of trying to be the perfect parent, perfect son or daughter, perfect worker, perfect housekeeper, etc., individuals who find themselves with this much family responsibility need to be able to let things go and be content to be “good enough.”
Watch out for things that actually drain your health and ability to care for your family–alcohol, drugs, lack of exercise, poor diet, etc. It is imperative that an individual find healthy ways to alleviate the stress and take care of their own mental and physical health in order to meet the challenges of being in the “sandwich club.” Pay attention to getting enough sleep, working through your feelings and emotional issues, and taking time away from all the demands of family and responsibilities.
Finally, don’t take on more than you have to. Care taking and parenting doesn’t mean doing everything and anything for the individuals we care for–whether they are our children or our aging parents. Children should be growing and developing and becoming increasingly independent, and we shouldn’t be taking on tasks and issues for our parents before we need to. Let people do what they can and don’t do anything for anyone else that he or she can do himself.