Along with many of my friends and peers, I am a member of the sandwich generation; this is defined as a person who is both caring for caring for parents, as well as for children. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older, and are either raising a young child, or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). People who are part of the sandwich generation are pulled in many directions. Not only do many provide care and financial support to their parents and their children, but nearly four-in-ten (38%) report both their grown children and parents rely on them for emotional support.
It is really difficult to work full-time, care-give, and grieve loss, while attempting to keep it all together for your young children at home. The adults you once relied on for support, knowledge and guidance are now looking to you to provide the same. It all comes down to you. We truly become the “adults” in charge and, as a good friend of mine friend describes it, “Adulting is hard.” As an independent parent, I feel this even more acutely, without a partner to lean on for support. This period of my life feels like trying to walk on groundless ground.
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Stressed caregivers may experience fatigue, anxiety and depression. As a person responsible for the care of others, it is so important to start with yourself, so you have something left to give. There are various support tactics that help to combat caregiver burn-out. I wanted to share a few with you that I recently learned about from the Mayo Clinic, as I thought they would be helpful:
- Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, a friend or family member may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries or cook for you.
- Focus on what you are able to provide. It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
- Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
- Get connected. Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping may be available.
- Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
- Seek social support. Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it’s just a walk with a friend.
- Set personal health goals. For example, set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water.