About a quarter of U.S. adults are part of the so-called "sandwich generation," or people who care for their aging parents as well as their own children. And, as people continue to live longer and many young adults struggle to gain financial independence, we’ll likely see this group grow.
Being in this sandwich generation is exhausting and overwhelming and can take a tremendous toll emotionally, physically and financially. That’s why it’s vital to find self-care resources.
Here are some self-care suggestions for this often overlooked group.
1. Set boundaries. Draw clear lines to protect your personal space and time, even if it’s just setting aside time each morning for coffee. You’ll be a better caregiver to those you love if you give yourself time to recharge and replenish yourself.
2. Celebrate small wins. You should also recognize the many things you accomplish each day, whether it's personal, professional or as a caregiver. What you do matters. Celebrate your wins!
3. Educate your kids. Make sure your children understand the reasons you’re stretched thin. When kids are aware of the sacrifices you make and the challenges you face, they’re often more empathetic and cooperative.
4. Ask your siblings or other relatives for help. Let them know that their help is both wanted and needed. And ask for exactly what you need. Many times people want to help, but don’t know what to do, so be specific. Can they pick up groceries or dinner? Can they fill in for you for a few hours one day a week (or more)? Or do you just need them to stop by and chat so you can stay connected with others and reduce your stress?
5. Stay connected with peers. Keeping a connection with friends or colleagues who are not involved in caregiving can provide a fresh perspective and a mental break.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you need to consider finding a professional care partner for your parents. Remember, caring for your loved ones is about ensuring the best care for them, even if you’re not providing it directly.
Of course, a professional caregiver can help alleviate some of the pressure by providing respite care for a few hours or complete care for longer periods of time, but these self-care practices are a great place to start.
Lauren Miller is the owner of Right at Home, which provides a wide range of in-home care options for seniors and adults with disabilities.