How in God’s name do you people do it?
The typical sandwich generation definition is middle-aged adults often in their 40’s and 50’s who care for aging parents and their own children. Currently, about twelve percent of parents are part of this group according to data from the Pew Research Center. This new life has a huge impact on work, finances, relationships and a sandwich generation caregiver’s health.
I’m going to broaden that definition a bit to include grandparents who are caring for grandchildren along with their aging parents. The folks in their late 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s may not be working, but this is certainly not the way they expected to spend retirement. Given life expectancy these days, I believe this grandparent “sandwich” group will continue to grow.
Technically, I don’t even fall into my expanded definition of a sandwich caregiver. But Lord above, after managing the needs of a puppy and Mom while still trying to work, get her bills paid, medications set up, grocery shop and completing all the caregiving tasks, let’s just say I’m exhausted after our four days together.
Trust me, I know that true sandwich generation caregivers have it much harder. I can’t imagine adding homework and school activities, trying to find time for date night, keeping up with a home, working AND caring for aging parents. I am in awe of all you accomplish.
Unlike many sandwich generation caregivers, I chose this new life with Tucker, anticipating he would be a lot of work. What I didn’t anticipate is suddenly understanding what it means to be part of this group. Tucker is 12 weeks old and mom is 88 which means constantly being on top of them. Tucker and Mom both need a lot of care right now.
At his age, Tucker is teething which means lots of play biting. His teeth may be little, but they are razor sharp. This does not mix well with my Mom’s fragile skin. He is learning the “No bite” command but redirecting is an ongoing process. In the meantime, I’m encouraging Mom to use a good hand cream like Eucerin and we are looking into soft white gloves which will help. We may investigate Skin Guards as well. I don’t want to discourage her from loving him, but she needs to be safe.
Keeping our parents safe is the number one concern of caregivers. For anyone who must monitor safety issues for an elder and a child, it is a never-ending battle, particularly if everyone lives in the same household. If your children are older, they can help by making sure toys are off the floor and put away. If they are younger, it can help to have a dedicated playroom.
When the three of us are together, Tucker is confined to the kitchen with a floor that is easily cleaned. This requires a scripted choreography of movement. Mom is afraid to use her walker and do her thing for fear of running into him. That means I am doing tasks that she would normally do. She needs to continue to do as much as she can for herself. I will pick him up and take him outside or into another room to play while she does her thing.
If your parents live with you, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing everything for them, especially if your children are old enough to help. But people need a reason to get up in the morning. Folding laundry, mending a piece of clothing, unloading the dish washer and setting the table for dinner are all contributions by your elder that help everyone.
It doesn’t matter if you are a boomer like me, a millennial or in the sandwich generation. Some things are universal and having these conversations early on is one of them.
- What is their financial situation? When you understand this, you are in a better position to find resources that can help them, which helps you.
- Who is in their support network? When you know their plumber, electrician, utility providers and when garbage and recycling need to go out, you have a list of contacts for them which takes the pressure off of you when they suddenly need help at home. For free worksheets to initiate discussions and fill out together: Sample Service Provider and Sample Task List
- Self-care is a big topic in caregiving and easier said than done. Identifying my support network is for me more self-care than a massage or meditation. With so many tugs on our time, we need to identify what makes us feel supported in our caregiving and non-caregiving roles. If a framework to think about a self-care strategy is difficult then you may find this helpful Strategies for Caregiver Support.
If you know of a sandwich generation caregiver and would like to brighten their day, consider these suggestions for monthly subscriptions:
Self-care subscription boxes
The best pampering gifts
An unexpected bonus.
I never realized how my mother rains down tissues like a 4-year-old flower girl scattering rose petals down the aisle. I’ve spent so much time picking up stuff she has dropped and Tucker should not eat that I’m more limber than I’ve been in years.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call