If you’re supporting both your children and an elderly parent or family member, you’re part of the ever growing sandwich generation. As a caregiver, it can be challenging to balance the demanding roles of caring for your growing children and your aging parents.
Caregiving as a member of the sandwich generation can be stressful and exhausting. Fortunately, there are ways that you can healthily manage the unique stress that comes with juggling two caregiving roles. Here are 6 simple ways you can manage sandwich generation stress.
1. Identify your triggers and how you deal with stress
Knowing what events and situations trigger you is essential to help you better understand what you need to avoid and work through to reduce your stress levels. Do you get overwhelmed with your to-do list and appointments? Are doctor appointments a stressful trigger for you? Once you become aware of your triggers, you can find healthy ways to cope with stress.
It’s also important to be aware of how you deal with stress and whether or not you can add healthier coping skills into your routine.
If you find yourself coping with stress in an unhealthy way, try adding some stress-reducing activities to your weekly routine like daily walks, reading, exercising, or spending time outdoors.
2. Stay organized
One of the best ways that you can prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed and burnt out is to stay organized and keep on top of your schedule. Sandwich generation caregivers have an endless list of dates to remember, from weekly soccer matches to doctor appointments.
Use a calendar or spreadsheet to keep track of everyone’s appointments and important dates. The Acensa Health app is a great way to track and stay on top of not only your appointments, but you and your family’s healthcare.
3. Set aside time to take care of yourself
Many caregivers part of the sandwich generation spend most of their time taking care of others but forget to care for themselves. Set aside time to take care of yourself. A mental health day at the end of every week or month can greatly improve your sense of well-being. This can be a weekly self-care day, or simply making sure you’re getting enough sleep and water, and are eating healthy. The more time you take to decompress and relax, the stronger you will be mentally and physically to care for your children and parent.
4. Save up for financial costs and emergencies
Caring for your children and a parent is expensive. Although some medical costs may be covered by health insurance, bills add up quickly and are difficult to manage when you’re not prepared. Talk to your parent’s physician to understand how you can be better financially prepared and what to expect in terms of their care. You can also create a monthly budget and consult a financial advisor on how you can best manage your finances as a sandwich caregiver.
5. Seek out support
Being a sandwich caregiver doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Seek support from your spouse, family members, or friends in times of need. You can ask fellow family members to help you with caring for your elderly parent or family member and distribute some of the responsibilities to take the pressure off and prevent you from feeling burnt out. Talk to your support system about your worries, stresses, and concerns whenever you feel alone or overwhelmed.
If you don’t have a large support system, you can also reach out to a professional for help. Speaking to a mental healthcare professional can help you offload your stress and worries and feel heard. It may also be worth looking into hiring a caregiver to support you if you have the financial means.
6. Let go of seeking perfection
You won’t ever be able to create the perfect balance between caring for your children, your elderly parents, and also caring for yourself. Understand that you won’t be able to do it all, and that’s perfectly normal. Sometimes, you won’t have balance – you’ll spend more time focusing on your children one week, and weeks where you prioritize your elderly parent. Prioritize what’s most important each week and don’t stress too much about creating a perfect balance.
Caring for an aging parent while also caring for your children is a difficult task that’s filled with challenges. Although it’s not easy, with these tips you’ll be able to manage sandwich generation stress in a healthy, productive way and find balance between caregiving for your children and for your aging parent.