Does this sound familiar?
It’s Saturday morning and you have dropped off your children at one of their activities – karate, dance, cadets, etc – so you have two hours to go and pick up your mother and father to take them to their doctor’s appointments and to the bank.
After picking the children back up, you all stop for lunch along the way. You have to order for everyone to make sure the children eat something healthy and because your parents have trouble reading the menu. Then it’s off to the shop for everyone and the day goes on.
If you are caring for ageing parents and caring for children – adult or young – then you are in the “Sandwich Generation”.
The term was first used in 1981 by Dorothy Miller and the definition, “a generation of people who are caring for their ageing parents, while supporting their own children”, was officially added to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary in 2006.
As the economy continues to struggle, families are binding together more than ever to assist each other any way possible. Members of the “Sandwich Generation” are literally pulled in many directions as they are the primary caregiver for their own young children, while at the same time potentially providing financial support, medical decisions, addressing legal issues and/or providing emotional support for their aging parents.
According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, “Not only do many provide care and financial support to their parents and their children, but nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) say both their grown children and their parents rely on them for emotional support.”
The emotional and physical stress of caring for others can be overwhelming at times. Here are some suggestions to help you juggle and cope with the responsibilities and challenges of care giving for your loved ones and yourself.
Plan ahead – Preparing well in advance to meet your own needs and those of your loved ones should undoubtedly be your first step. Whether it’s a plan for the day, week, months or years, it’s important to discuss it and agree on the steps together. Discussing strategy allows everyone to have a say in having all of our needs met.
Know your resources – Find out more about different employee benefits, such as compassionate leave and the Employee Assistance Programme. Also, the various resources in the community to suit all generations including sport clubs, after-school programmes, Meals on Wheels and the elderly day-care programme. There are many affordable options out there.
Accept help – When someone says “If there’s anything I can do to help just call”, take them up on it. Make small requests of those who offer help to ease your burden.
Stay healthy – We may have all heard the saying “If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of others?” Get plenty of rest, exercise, balanced diet. The easiest excuse for grabbing fast food, skipping the usual morning walk or letting yourself get rundown can be in the guise of saving time, but it could also be at the expense of your health. And take time for you, to read, to relax, to pamper yourself. Far from being selfish, these times are crucial for your wellbeing.
Learn to set limits – Some of the same skills and strategies you use at work such as planning, organising, communicating, setting limits and delegating can be used effectively on the home-front for achieving a satisfying, fulfilling and well-balanced life both personally and professionally.
Although the members of the “sandwich generation” are under enormous pressure, the same survey mentioned earlier suggests “that adults in the sandwich generation are just as happy with their lives overall as are other adults. Some 31 per cent say they are very happy with their lives, and an additional 52 per cent say they are pretty happy”.
Even happy people feel stress and strain at times. For those who think it may be helpful to talk through such feelings, an appointment with an EAP counsellor is only a phone call away.
Cindy Blekaitis is programme manager of the Employee Assistance Programme of the Cayman Islands. For more information or to schedule a confidential appointment, contact programme at 949-9559.