Stuck in the middle with you
If you’re caring for aging parents while still raising children of your own, you are a member of the sandwich generation, so called because you are sandwiched between the two generations you’re caring for. Being a caregiver to loved ones on both ends of the age spectrum can present a very unique set of challenges. But as with any challenge, the best way to tackle it is to arm yourself with lots of been-there-done-that advice and practical information.
With people living longer and couples starting families later in life, being a member of the sandwich generation is becoming somewhat common. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, nearly half of Americans in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are still raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. Of that group, 15% are providing financial support to children and at least one aging parent.
The financial strain can be daunting, but Foresters can help. As a Foresters member, you have access to Everyday Money, our toll-free and confidential phone-based financial helpline that gives you access to an accredited counselor who can help answer your questions about the everyday management of your money—something that’s particularly important when you’re trying to stretch it to support multiple generations. If you need additional legal support, don’t forget that Legal Link gives you access to certain free and legal services in your area should you ever need it.
Money isn’t the only challenge the sandwich generation faces. The emotional strain of trying to offer support to children and parents can be very real too. The following tips and suggestions may help you navigate your way through this time in your life.
6 Tips to Cope with Sandwich Generation Stress
- Take care of yourself. It may seem impossible to do so when you feel like everyone is depending upon you, but that’s precisely why you have to put yourself first every once in a while. You can’t be of use to anyone when your tank is empty. Take time to get away from your duties by doing some small activity every day that refreshes and energizes you, eat well, get enough exercise and rest, and ask for help when you need it.
- Talk amongst yourselves. Find caregiver support groups, either real or virtual, so you can talk with other people who are going through the same thing that you are. Sharing tips and stories with people who truly understand can make you feel less alone. Visit Caregivers for a list of incredible resources.
- Talk to your parents. As early as you can, talk to your parents about their wishes. Make sure they have their legal and financial affairs in order now so it’s less for you to worry about and take care of later.
- Empower your parents. Providing them with practical advice and information will enable them to retain their independence for as long as possible, and will empower them to continue making their own decisions. You shouldn’t have to make decisions for them until they truly can’t do it for themselves.
- Empower your children. If they are old enough, give them things to do to help out around the house. Not only will they be learning important skills, but they’ll also feel grown-up and important, and you’ll feel that much less responsible for doing everything. Visit Parenting Squad for a list of age-appropriate chores for children.
- Don’t try to do it all. Professional caregivers can help with day-to-day tasks. Shifting some of the responsibility to outside help can relieve some of your stress and make your interactions with your parent seem more like they used to be. Respite care, or relief care, is another option that allows you to take a break when you need to refresh and refuel. Remember, looking after yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.
Finally, try to look for the silver lining. Yes, it can sometimes be stressful to feel like so many people are depending upon you, but consider how blessed you are to have your children and your parents be so much a part of your life right now. You’re creating memories that will be cherished for years to come—and you’re setting a wonderful example for your children who may one day be taking care of you.
412652A CAN/US (08/15)