The Sandwich Generation: Tips For Caring For Elderly Parents While Rearing A Family.

NH Lifestyle Articles                                              

Tips for "The Sandwich Generation"

by Caroline Brewer

Caring for your elderly parent(s), spouse, and kids? If you answered "yes," you are not alone and have been metaphorically dubbed a member of "The Sandwich Generation."

The fact is, more and more adult children are faced with the dilemma of how to care for and support their aging parents while balancing other responsibilities. It is not unusual for caretakers to feel frazzled and stressed. The good news is that there is hope in the midst of the chaos and some tips from local caregivers and many community resources available.

My mother-in-law, Edna Childs, is a full-time live-in caretaker of her elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Her first piece of advice is simple and related to self-care: "Caregivers need to make time for themselves or they will have the life sucked out of them." How often I have heard, time and again, in my Social Work classes and during my professional work with the elderly, that I needed to care for myself before I could help another person. This is not being selfish, this is the essence of self-care.

Take care of yourself. Without self-care, burnout may become inevitable. If you are finding that you might have symptoms of burnout, there is nothing wrong with seeking help from friends, family, or even the objective viewpoint of a certified professional. Always give yourself the option and benefit of caring support, too.

Seek additional support. Sometimes, being the sole caregiver is not enough. This does not mean that caregivers are not doing their best, but that support is available to people caring for and helping their elderly parents. Childs says: "Families need to find out what is available to them and use the services, that is what they are there for." Thankfully, Carroll, Coos, and Grafton counties are laden with numerous resources available to families and caregivers in similar circumstances. Rebekah Cocco, a care manager for Crotched Mountain Community Care, suggests trying Service Link for northern New Hampshire agencies. She continues: "Also, the Health and Human Services website is laden with resources for this population." Please refer to the attached local listings for help nearest you.

Maintain a workable schedule. For some people caring for an elderly family member, a regimented daily schedule is helpful. Childs admits that routines help her "Keep life at an even keel by keeping a regular schedule for myself and my mother." Of course, every family situation is different and there are many effective means of caregiving. Some people thrive with lists and organization, while others thrive in "going with the flow." Both methods are beneficial, as long as they work well for everyone.

Communication is essential! I recently worked as a caseworker in a local organization serving the elderly and I often heard reports and stories from caregivers and elderly clients who were frustrated with one another. I recall an elderly client calling me at my office, exasperated over her families' constant decision-making on her behalf without her consent. I asked my client if she had first discussed the issue with her children, to which she said she had not. I wonder if the pain and anger everyone felt, in this case, would have been as severe if they had communicated beforehand.

Allow parent(s) the right to self-determination. Carol Dustin, of Lebanon, NH, believes the best thing that a son or daughter can do for their aging parent is to be supportive in respecting the parent's right to make their own decisions on how they wish to live their lives, in a safe and healthy context. She further adds, with regard to communication, that "caregivers must be willing to talk with their parents about the end of their lives." Some people might find the end-of-life subject morbid, but they might save themselves more grief later on if they know how their loved one wishes to live their days peacefully.

Involve parents in decision-making. Sometimes, it is essential for family members to take a more active role in decision-making; however, this does not mean it is always best to completely take over. Fran Olson, a caregiver specialist from Granite State Senior Citizens Council, agrees: "Being supportive to me means asking the parents what can be done to be helpful and including the parents in planning and decision making. Some children mean so well and jump in and take charge without being sensitive to the parent's feelings." It is very hard for parents to give up some of the tasks they are used to doing, as it means another loss and possibly another reminder of losing control.

There are numerous services available to those who are feeling discouraged. You are absolutelty not alone. Consult our Local Services Directory or and for more detailed information on local agencies.


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