What is the Sandwich generation?
As a parent, managing responsibilities of your children, no matter what age, is a strenuous enough task on its own. However, a sizeable percentage of the population, are taking care of their elderly parents while raising kids. Perhaps they can no longer live on their own and need some sort of daily assistance. Maybe they’ve moved in. However the familial make-up, those people who are raising their own children and taking care of their parents are often overworked and stressed.
They’re known as the sandwich generation, a term first used by American social worker Dorothy Miller in the early 1980’s. Today, those in the sandwich generation occupy more than one quarter of Canadians aged 45-64, according to the National Post. And studies done by the Pew Research Center indicate that 1 in 8 middle-aged Americans are currently caring for at least one child and a parent under the same roof.
Women are far likelier than men to be the main care provider — by more than three times. It’s estimated that at some point in their lives, 50-66% of all adult women in the United States will provide care for an elderly parent or in-law.
While the sandwich generation is not a particularly new phenomenon, it is one that can be the source of major stress for those who find themselves “sandwiched” between children, their elderly parents, while trying to maintain a work-balance and keep family finances in check.
How Do I Survive it?
Okay, so you might be reading this and think, “Wow, that’s me!” Stop. Breathe. All hope is not lost. There are many resources available online to help manage stress in the sandwich generation.
Here are some great tips on stress management from the American Psychological Association for those feeling the burden of taking care of children and a senior family member simultaneously:
What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?
Recognize how you deal with stress
Are you using unhealthy behaviours to cope with the stress of supporting your children and parents, and is this specific to certain events or situations?
Put things in perspective
Make time for what’s really important. Prioritize and delegate responsibilities. Identify ways your family and friends can lessen your load so that you can take a break. Delay or say no to less important tasks. Find healthy ways to manage stress — Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities — taking a short walk, exercising, or talking things out with friends or family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.
Take care of yourself
Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity like walking or yoga or your weekly softball game. Keep in contact with your friends, family members. No matter how hectic life gets, you need to take care of yourself — which includes making time for yourself — so you have the mental and physical energy to care for your parents and children.
Ask for professional support
Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to persevere during stressful times. If you continue to be overwhelmed by stress or the unhealthy behaviors you use to cope, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your worries, better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.
What else can I do?
Of course, sometimes priorities shift quickly and life maneuvers you into a place where you are simply unable to address all aspects of family. You might find yourself unable, despite your willingness, to take care of your elderly loved one. We recognize this, and it’s why we built Mavencare — to help families by providing quality in-home care services.
If you’re finding the bind of being in the sandwich generation too great, perhaps your family might want to think about an in-home caregiver to assist your elderly parent. Visit us online and see how Mavencare can help.
Don’t let the sandwich get to you.