If you know someone who is caring for an aging parent in Michigan at the same time they are raising a family, you know a member of the Sandwich Generation. These men and women are caught in the middle of their need to care for their younger families and their duty and desire to care for their older parents.
Caregivers in the Sandwich Generation might be responsible for meal preparation, shopping, housekeeping and transportation for parents and for their own children. They also might manage medication and therapy schedules, and oversee a senior’s financial matters. These dual caregivers are essentially running two busy households.
When you consider that 60% of these caregivers also have jobs, it is easy to see how self-care is shuffled to the bottom of their priorities.
According to The American Psychological Association, the stresses of caring for a senior loved one can take a toll on the health of members of the Sandwich Generation. Studies show that adults caring for multiple generations experience weakened immune systems, more frequent headaches and backaches, and higher levels of depression.
Easing the caregiving burden is essential to a Sandwich-Generation caregiver’s well-being.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Lend a hand. Offer to help, but know that simply asking the caregiver if he or she needs help may not be enough. Look for a specific task or opportunity you can assist with to lighten their load.
- Give them a break. Stay with the aging loved one while the caregiver enjoys lunch with friends, has their hair done, or just takes a quiet walk alone. Consider volunteering your time to allow for a regular “caregiver’s day off.”
- Be a good listener. Allowing the caregiver to vent or share the day’s experiences over the phone can help them avoid feelings of isolation. Socializing is a great way to relieve stress.
- Be positive and supportive. If you are the spouse of a mufti-generational caregiver, you may feel some resentment when your husband or wife is busy caring for an aging loved one. Focus on admiring your spouse for their commitment to their elders and their hard work.
- Do some research. Most family caregivers aren’t aware of the many resources available to assist them. Visit the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging website for more information about services like Meals on Wheels and Michigan Adult Day Services that can make caregiving easier.
- Help them to prepare. The hard work of the Sandwich Generation allows seniors to stay in their homes, but there may come a time when they must move to an independent living or assisted living center. Encourage the caregiver to visit several senior living communities. Knowing the amenities and expenses of each will help them create an emergency back-up plan just in case they need it.
For more information to help a friend or family member of the Sandwich Generation care for themselves, visit the AARP Caregiving Resource Center.