With more people than ever before choosing to remain in their own homes as they age, family members are becoming increasingly responsible for taking on the role of caring for elderly parents. This phenomenon, has created it’s own niche for an entire generation, now called the “Sandwich Generation,” which includes any family caregiver who is caring for both their own growing children and their elderly parents.
As you might expect, the Sandwich Generation is increasingly overworked and underpaid (in both money and appreciation). The double duty of caring for both children and parents, when partnered with the fact that many caregivers are also working full-time jobs, creates an additional layer of stress for the family caregiver. This stress can take a toll on your relationships with loved ones, your mental health and even your physical well-being. Which makes self care for caregivers that much more important.
Self Care for Caregivers
Time management is something all of us struggle with, but it’s increasingly more difficult when you also factor in your duties as a family caregiver. Here are some tips for figuring out how to gain more balance:
- Embrace “No.” These days, most of us are so prone to saying “yes” to everything and everyone, but learning how to say “no” can become liberating. Start by keeping a list of main priorities, such as caring for children, caring for elderly parents, caring for a spouse and caring for yourself. If something comes along that doesn’t fit into that category--like volunteering for the PTA or joining a new book club--simply say no. Focus on the more basic things, such as helping your child with their homework or taking time to go exercise instead.
- Exercise. When you feel spread thin, making time for yourself is usually the first thing to go, but making time to exercise is vital to your overall health. Exercise has been proven to be a great stress-management tool and is something that can be done when you need alone time, or with a friend or loved one. If you don’t mind the latter, you can even arrange to work out with your parent since walking has been proven to have significant health benefits at every age.
- Enlist help. The saying that “it takes a village to raise a child,” also applies to caring for elderly parents. Help can come in many forms--whether it’s asking your spouse to take on more chores at home, a friend to carpool your kids to school in the morning, or even sign up for a meal delivery service to take care of dinner several times a week. No one can do everything on their own, and no matter which form the help comes in, it will make a big difference to your stress levels.
- Have a safety net. You may not be able to outsource your work or parenting your children, but you can invest in technology to help keep your aging parent safe at home when you’re not there. A Medical Guardian medical alert device can be there for your loved one 24/7, so that you can rest assured that your parent is being cared for while you tend to other matters--hopefully without the guilt.
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout
Self care for caregivers not only allows for much needed breaks from caregiving duties, but also helps to prevent caregiver burnout. If you don’t have the energy to care for yourself, what makes you think you’ll have the energy to care for others? Creating more quality time for yourself might seem counterintuitive at first, but down the road you’ll realize it’s a necessity to your sanity and your health.