(Note: This blog post was co-written by Lori Marshall, who is a licensed clinical specialist and social worker in Kansas and Iowa.)
There is a definite argument for having kids when you’re young. The argument is that it minimizes the chances that you’ll end up “sandwiched” between aging parents and young children. This is the world in which I’m living right now. I had my oldest daughter at age 31. She is now 17, and my parents are both in their 80s. (Oh, and did I mention that I also have a 10-year old?)
I have many friends who are going through a very similar point in their lives. And since October is “Mental Health Awareness Month,” I thought I would write a couple of blog posts related to this.
The stress of being “sandwiched” between children and aging parents is enormous. We’ve all read what stress can do to our body, but what can we do to minimize it in this situation? Here is my advice:
I found a great article that spelled out what documents are important to get in place
These documents include the following:
- Power of Attorney(for finances)
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Health Care Directive
- Will and Trust
Also consider pre-arranged funeral planning. This allows your parents to have their final wishes honored and a meaningful ceremony for the family. As a caretaker, it also allows you the time to grieve without the worry of planning a funeral.
Click this link for more information regarding other important documents: https://moneywise.com/a/essential-documents-for-aging-parents
#2—Have uncomfortable conversations.
These are not fun, but they’re incredibly necessary. It’s very important that you know the names of your parents’ attorney, financial planner, and banker and also how you can retrieve documents related to all three.
I also found another relevant article with more good tips: https://www.agingcare.com/articles/how-to-talk-to-parents-about-assisted-living-153013.htm
#3- Take care of Yourself.
You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking good care of yourself.
Lori Marshall has the following suggestions for self-care as you navigate this point in your life:
“Caretakers are at a higher risk of depression and other chronic illness. Self-care is like taking a vitamin, as it supports your overall health and it’s needed daily. Self-care can be as simple as forgiving yourself (self-compassion) or a cup of coffee with a friend and as organized as support groups and yoga classes. The key is to find what works for you.
“Ask for what you need. (‘Hey Bob, can you cover for me on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-2? I will be talking a walk.’) You are not letting anyone down, and you are not selfish. It’s important because YOU are important.”
Lori also says that an excellent resource for caregivers can be found on the website https://www.caregiver.org/ and they recommend you focus on the following self-care practices:
- Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, e.g. meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi.
- Attend to your own healthcare needs.
- Get proper rest and nutrition.
- Exercise regularly, even if only for 10 minutes at a time.
- Take time off without feeling guilty.
- Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book or taking a warm bath.
- Seek and accept the support of others.
- Seek supportive counseling when you need it or talk to a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor.
- Identify and acknowledge your feelings; you have a right to ALL of them.
- Change the negative ways you view situations.
- Set goals.
What can companies and organizations do for employees who are in this situation?
- Be flexible. Is there an opportunity for the employee to work from home, as opposed to using a PTO day? My sister’s employer has been amazing in this respect. She worked from my parent’s house, all while driving them to appointments on her break.
- Offer stress relief options. Do you have an onsite gym? OR offer gym discounts? Is there an opportunity for a yoga or meditation class?
- Set up an employee assistance program and offer behavioral health benefits.
- Arrange for “lunch and learn” opportunities with attorneys and financial planners to help employees navigate this time in their life.
Nobody knows better than me about the challenges associated with being a member of the “Sandwich Generation.” However, there are ways to cope and there are resources available to help you do so. And there are things that employers can do to help make their employees’ personal lives easier so that their professional lives are more productive.