Surviving the Sandwich Generation: Stress-Busting Tips for Caregivers

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( — April 11, 2019) — Are you part of the Sandwich Generation? Defined as adults, usually in their 40s or 50s, who are raising their own children at the same time they’re taking care of elderly parents, this demographic is growing as the Baby Boomer generation ages. If you’re shouldering responsibility for several generations of loved ones, you know how stressful it can be. It’s not easy to juggle the demands of child rearing, providing care for your parents, holding down a part- or full-time job, and keeping your own marriage strong.

Although there’s no magic bullet for easing the pressure — other than the astronomical odds of winning a Powerball jackpot — there are some ways you can minimize the toll taken by belonging to the Sandwich Generation. So grab yourself a cuppa, turn the ringer off your smartphone, and take a few minutes to read the following sanity-saving tips, tricks, and hacks.

Organization Is Key

If you are not a naturally organized person, now is the time to become one. Luckily, keeping track of the many plates you’re spinning is easier now than ever, thanks to our smartphones. Use an app like Cozi to communicate with everyone in the family, jot down appointments and reminders, see at-a-glance what everyone’s schedules look like, share to-do and shopping lists, and much more.

Caregivers for family members with health issues can also benefit from medical records apps. These consolidate provider phone numbers, appointments, lab results, and prescriptions, giving you a convenient and secure way to stay on top of healthcare.

Ask for Help

The old saying that it takes a village to raise children is equally true when it comes to taking care of seniors. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It may be that your friends and other relatives aren’t offering a helping hand because you appear to have everything under control.

Remember that help can come from anywhere in the metaphorical village, not just your inner circle. Hire a babysitter or mother’s helper to watch the kids while you get things done, or advertise for a local college student to visit and chat with a lonely, elderly parent. Or maybe there’s an old family friend who is now retired and would be happy to help out by running errands for your folks or taking them out for a cup of coffee or a sandwich.

Prioritize Convenience Over Cost Savings

Provided you can swing it financially, take some of the pressure off by using services like Shipt, Instacart, or Postmates to deliver groceries to your parents’ house or your own. Need to get Mom to a medical appointment, but you’re already driving the softball practice carpool? Lyft or Uber to the rescue.

Convenience foods can also be a lifesaver for members of the Sandwich Generation. Stock your parents’ freezer with individual meals, whether ready-made or cooked from scratch. Stash items like simmer sauces, pre-cooked rice or quinoa, and pre-chopped veggies in your own kitchen — this will keep your family from depending on delivery and fast food, but will also help put dinner on the table in a half-hour or so. Or try a meal kit delivery service, which takes the planning and shopping aspects out of the equation as well.

Budget stretched as thin as you are? See if you can barter with friends. Offer to host a sleepover for your kids’ BFFs so their parents can indulge in date night, on the condition that they return the favor next week. Your neighbor might be willing to grab some groceries for you on their next Costco run in exchange for a home-cooked meal or two. (After all, it doesn’t take much more effort to cook a double portion when you’re making dinner.)

Schedule Self Care Time

“Self care” might be the hashtag of the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Although Me Time has probably slipped a few spots on your priority list, maintaining your own emotional equilibrium and physical health is not optional during this time. Schedule time to unwind and recharge every day. How you do this is up to you: it could mean working out or practicing yoga, reading an unputdownable novel for half an hour before bed, taking a walk in the sunshine, calling an old friend to chat, pursuing a creative hobby like knitting, sketching, or baking, or even taking 20 minutes to watch funny videos of animals on YouTube. (There’s nothing like baby goats in pajamas to make you forget your troubles, at least temporarily!)

Know That It’s Not Forever

Lastly, one surefire way to put things in perspective is to remember that this stressful time won’t last forever. That knowledge can be bittersweet, of course. Your children will become more and more independent; one day they’ll fly the nest and leave you longing for the days of driving them to piano practice.

Similarly, your parents won’t be around forever. Try to stop and smell the proverbial roses as you’re tending to their practical aspects of caregiving. It might not seem like it now, when you’re running on fumes and grande lattes with extra espresso shots, but there will come a time when you’d do anything to relive even just a few of these hectic hours.