There are approximately 1.5 million Australians caught between the demands of raising their own children in addition to providing care to one or more ageing parents. This generation of people is known as the “Sandwich Generation”.
The Sandwich Generation worries about the well-being of both their parents and their children. They deal with the financial concerns of high school and university education, their parents’ care expenses, and saving for their own retirement – often while juggling the daily commitment to their own career.
For those who find themselves in this situation there are ways to make life more manageable
Making the mental shift
It is important to realise that perfectionism or being “Super Human” is unachievable and to accept that everything can’t be perfect.
Adopting an attitude of being ‘the best one can be’ can help in coping with the stress and guilt that can be associated with the juggle of working, parenting and caring.
Remembering why you are doing what you are doing (for love of parents or pride derived from work or simply because it fits with personal values) can help find a love for what you do and enjoyment from life.
Take care of yourself
Although there can be a feeling of loss of control and overload, it is important to set aside some mental and physical health time for yourself. Simple healthy activities need to be prioritised, such as taking a walk or taking quiet time out to read a book.
It is important to incorporate time into each day, even if it is only ten minutes, for some ‘time out’.
Nurture your other relationships
Relationships with your spouse or partner can become strained when caring responsibilities take centre stage. It is important to communicate and to make time for each other.
Relationships with children cannot be neglected and time needs to be created where they are the focus of attention. Close friendships are a vital support network and getting together with friends to do things you enjoy, such as playing sport or taking time out for a manicure, can be a way to nurture yourself and your friendships.
Research your company’s Employee Assistance Programs
Some workplaces offer Employee Assistance Programs that may include benefits for family carers.
These programs offer various supports, including flexible schedules, access to emotional support resources and services, emergency elderly care, and personal or compassionate leave. Some provide counselors to help manage stress, and even provide referrals for financial planners and legal advisors to ensure that the best and safest arrangements have been established.
Seek out and accept help
Seeking support and sharing the responsibility of care are key to sustaining your role as a family carer.
It is a demanding job and it is impossible to do it alone. Enlist the help of others to meet your caring responsibilities, for example allow extended family members and friends to assist with childcare.
Draw on external support – such as expert care management support – to share the burden, and to guide the challenging decisions you may face over time. Use respite care to provide short-term breaks and find ways to outsource tasks such as cleaning.
This will assist in finding a better balance in life.
Help your parents stay active and socially engaged
When an aging parent loses a spouse or the independence of living alone, depression can be experienced. Finding activities that are engaging and stimulating can help maintain health and emotional well-being.
Some examples could be going to church, volunteering, or attending events at the local senior centre. If a parent has physical limitations, activities to engage them at home can be helpful such as watching movies, listening to music, or doing craft.
Teaching parents how to use technology such as mobile phones, Facebook or email ensures that they can stay connected to friends and family members.
Seek out Care Management services
Care Management services greatly reduce family carer stress.
National Care Management’s professional Care Managers work with individuals and their families to set care goals, develop care plans, collaborate with doctors, and co-ordinate and connect with service providers.
This eases the burden on family carers and gives them peace of mind about the health and well-being of their parents.