American parents are increasingly inheriting a large responsibility: taking care of their aging, often ill, parents. It's led to what many call the Sandwich Generation, a group that the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes is tasked with caring for their parents while simultaneously providing care to children at home.
According to the New York Times, one-quarter of adults with children under 18 now provide care for aging parents -- and over 40% of people age 45 to 55 are living with the same situation. The stress of having to juggle caring for others while finding time to maintain personal health and wellness can be overwhelming. If you're dealing with such circumstances, try these coping techniques to help you manage your needs.
Look at the Big Picture
Juggling tasks that you need to complete for both your children and elderly parent may be challenging, and failing to get through your entire to-do list may send you into panic mode. When you're feeling as though you can't keep up with caring for your parent while caring with your child--without letting some of the associated tasks fall by the wayside--take a deep breath and step back. Look at all of the responsibilities that come with caring for an ill parent and children and break down them into smaller pieces. Also, prioritize tasks so you're sure the most crucial things get done.
Discuss the Situation
If your elderly parent is suffering from an illness affecting their mental health, there may come a time when it's impossible for you both to have a productive conversation. Have a discussion about living arrangements, medical care, and financial considerations before you start to care for your elderly parent, if you can. That way, you'll know their wishes before they can't communicate them. You'll also be better able to evaluate financial resources to pay for medical expenses and care.
Accept and Ask for Help
As noted by the Huffington Post, many in the Sandwich Generation try to go it alone because they believe they should be able to care for everyone at the same time. Don't let "should" thoughts convince you that asking for help is bad. Analyze your support system to figure out who can help to give you time to focus on yourself, catch up on work or run errands. Whether it's a spouse, friend, relative or older child, help is usually available when you need an extra set of hands.
Figure Out Whether Professional Help Is Covered
Besides your personal support system, there may be professional caregivers available to provide care for your ill parent. Review your parent's healthcare benefits through an employer or Medicare to see if they qualify for assistance. You may also be eligible for reduced-cost elder care through your own employer. Contact the human resources department at your or your spouse's workplace to see if these costs can be reduced.
Involve Your Children
Empowering Parents reminds readers that no matter the age of your children, they can still help in some way. Small children can retrieve items that your parent needs while older children may be able to sit with their elderly grandparent as you prepare meals or care for younger children. If your children are older teens, they are likely able to provide an even higher level of care. Of course, their skills and competencies vary; give them responsibilities according to their strengths.
Caring for ill parents and small children at the same time is not easy, but members of the Sandwich Generation do their best to care for their family. Use the tips outlined above to make caretaking more manageable, and be sure to carve out time for yourself each week.