Caught in the Middle: Caring for Kids & Parents

11/1/2019

You may not be a member of the Sandwich Generation now, but chances are, you may be at some point in your life. The term Sandwich Generation describes the growing segment of adults who simultaneously care for an older adult (usually a parent or parent‑in‑law) and their own children.

The rise of the Sandwich Generation is the culmination of several broad trends. We’re living longer and many of us are delaying marriage and childbearing. Furthermore, adult children are living at home longer or returning after a divorce.

Caring for more than one generation at the same time can be both positive and rewarding and stressful and exhausting. On the plus side, it may foster closeness among family members and make caregivers feel good about their ability to care for loved ones. However, being sandwiched between demanding generations may also compromise your health. It reduces the time you can invest in healthy behaviors (such as exercising or preparing nutritious meals). Plus, when you’re focused on taking care of other people’s needs, you may not attend to your own. Caregiving can pull you in many directions and strain personal, emotional and financial resources.

If you’re a multigenerational caregiver, here are a few tips to help you navigate the waters.

Prioritize your own retirement plan. This may sound like a small detail when you face pressing day‑to‑day responsibilities. However, if you don’t make it a priority, someday your children may be worried about how to help support you.

Take care of yourself. Remember the airplane safety message: Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. If you’re not healthy and rested, you won’t be able to take care of your loved ones. In addition to eating right and getting regular exercise, make sure to get plenty of sleep. Nothing will deplete your mental and physical reserves faster than sleep deprivation.

Share the workload. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask for help. If you have siblings, ask them to participate in caring for parents or grandparents, even if they are far away. Engage all able‑bodied family members in household chores. Hire outside help (if you can afford it) to do things you personally don’t have to do.

Communicate—often and clearly. Schedule family meetings to give everyone a chance to express their feelings and concerns. Set expectations about what you can and cannot do. If your parents or an adult child is going to move in with you, set clear ground rules about finances, chores and other potential conflict-generating topics.

Click here to download our "Caught in the Middle" fact sheet to learn additional tips for caregivers and what to do if you start feeling burned out.

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