Easing the Sandwich Generation Squeeze
If you are a middle-aged adult in your 40s or 50s and are tasked with caring for your own children as well as your elderly parents at the same time, you are a part of the sandwich generation. This can be very stressful on you, as you probably already know. Not only do you have to worry about raising your children — feeding them, transporting them, educating them, etc. — you have to worry about ensuring your aging parents are safe, eat enough, and get the focused healthcare they need. This squeeze can be even more pronounced when your aging parent is in hospice in San Mateo and elsewhere.
How can we ease the sandwich generation squeeze so that this subset of the population doesn’t burn out?
According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans in their 40s or thereabouts are so-called “sandwiched” between an aging parent and their own kids. These include adults with a parent age 65 or older who are either raising at least one child under the age of 18 or financially supporting an adult child. The sandwich generation has come about now that people are living longer at the same time that young adults are struggling financially to gain a foothold.
This leaves parents feeling emotionally and financially stressed by the need to care for young children and older relatives both at the same time. According to The New York Times, more and more provide this type of daily care for young children and aging parents, with millions more to follow, as the number of people in this country who are older than 65 is estimated to double by 2050. Couple that with the fact that Americans are starting to have children later in life, and you have a squeeze that can be pretty stressful all the way around.
On top of the stress burden, the sandwich generation also experiences a financial burden. It’s estimated that they have lost more than $10,000 because they were forced to adjust their own lives — reducing their working hours, increasing their expenses, or leaving a job entirely due to their increasing responsibilities.
The financial and career stress can then lead to relationship strain, with an estimated 25 percent of sandwich caretakers saying they have made sacrifices within their romantic relationships to accommodate the extra work.
On the positive side, 23 percent of sandwich caregivers say their relationship with their aging parent has strengthened due to so much time spent together. Still, it’s not an ideal situation. What can be done to ease the squeeze?
Tips For Managing the Stress
While there may not be anything that you can do about being sandwiched between caregiving for your own kids and your parents, there are ways you can better take care of yourself while doing it. Living a healthier lifestyle is the key. Here are some tips.
- Eat better: High fat or sugary foods lead to feelings of lethargy. Keep stress at bay by consuming antioxidant-rich foods (veggies and fruits like berries and dark, leafy greens) so your immune system gets a boost. Try high-fiber carbs too, such as lentils and beans, to make you feel fuller for longer.
- Get more sleep: Irritability and unclear thinking can result from fatigue, upping your risk for chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night. The more refreshed you feel, the better level of caring you can provide.
- Exercise: It doesn’t have to be much, but you should be getting active each day. Even a brisk walk around the block can help. But overall, you should aim for a half hour of exercise per day, pushing yourself to 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate, suggests US News. This will improve your mood as well as concentration, acting as a daily natural antidepressant.
- Get help: Accept help from whoever offers it, such as supportive friends and family members. If you can’t seem to shake the stress or can’t stop engaging in unhealthy coping behaviors, seek professional help from a psychologist who can guide you through.
- Find healthy ways to manage your stress: Engage in healthy, stress-reducing activities, such as walking, exercising, meeting friends for coffee, seeing a movie, attending a yoga class, or just taking a bubble bath in peace. Avoid drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, as these unhealthy behaviors can creep in fast and become very difficult to change, says the American Psychological Association. Your kids need you and your parents need you!
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
If you’re a part of the sandwich generation, we feel your challenges. We see it every day in our hospice program as family members try to juggle the demands of parenthood and caring for an unwell, aging parent. To learn more about our program and assistance that may be available, call us today at 888-978-1306.