As we noted in our recent blog, the "sandwich generation" describes caregivers (most often women) who are caring for their own children as well as helping their aging parents. This dual role can cause a lot of stress, especially as most caregivers are also managing a full-time job.
In some instances the caregiver's parents live with them, but there are many cases where they do not, which can cause a sandwiched family caregiver to have to run over to mom or dad's place to help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, tech issues, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and more.
If you're in this situation then you may find that rather than being able to visit with your parents and enjoy your time with them, your visits are very task-focused. You drop in to help them with their computer, or to pick them up for a medical appointment. This dynamic can have an impact on your parent-child relationship.
What's more, many aging adults don't want to be a burden to their children, and so they may do things like lift heavy items or climb ladders to get something – everyday things that can increase the risk of a fall or injury.
So, what can you do? How do you juggle everyone's needs and manage the many demands placed on you while still living an enjoyable life?
Homesharing is a great solution for sandwiched caregivers, but many aren't aware of it. With a housemate, your aging parent can remain at home and continue to be independent while reducing your own need to visit every day to help with light household chores, shoveling the driveway, tech issues, or other small jobs.
You could instead have a once or twice a week visit with your parent that's focused on being with them instead of doing things for them. If like a lot of adult children who are part of the sandwich generation you find yourself doing too much, and your parent doesn't want to move into a retirement home, then homesharing is a solution worth investigating. You'll find it offers lots of benefits – from companionship to extra income.
Take time for self-care
Instead of looking at self-care as another task on your to do list, think of it as being intentional about what matters to you and finding the time for those things. Many caregivers feel guilty about self-care – joining a book club, taking a day off to go out with friends, or just playing with your kids. However, these sorts of activities play an important role in a person's mental health and go a long way in restoring one's energy and strength.
Streamline family communications
If you're responsible for updating family on your parent's medical appointments or well-being then you know how much time phone calls to siblings, aunts, and uncles can take.
Some families have a phone chain in place – where you call one person and share the information and then they call the next person on the list. However, this can lead to "broken telephone" where the original message is diluted with each subsequent call. Instead, consider a group text or shared Google doc – it may be impersonal, but will really help you avoid having lengthy conversations where you're repeating the same information.
Ask family for help
It's important that as a sandwiched caregiver, you have a safety net of people you can turn to for help, comfort and understanding. Embrace the help that family and friends offer and if they don't offer, ask! Having someone who can look after your own young children if you need to run your parent to a last minute doctor's appointment, or who can check in on your parent so you can catch your child's soccer game is important.
Take advantage of work and government programs
More and more workplaces have programs to support family caregivers, however many employees keep the fact that they are a caregiver to themselves out of fear of repercussions on their career. The fact is that the sandwiched generation represents a very large segment of the population, and many companies have policies in place to support and help caregivers balance their career and their caregiving responsibilities. The government also have caregiving respite programs that are worth looking into.
A supplemental income homesharing arrangement is an innovative way to earn income while having the peace of mind that comes with having another body in the house with your parents. A task exchange homesharing arrangement is a great way to formalize that help with five to 10 hours a week of light household chores and other pre-determined tasks like landscaping or snow clearing. However, if your aging parent needs more help than that, then you'll want to consider hiring a personal support worker or home care nurse. A house mate is not able to help with personal care tasks like administering medication or lifting your aging parent.
Looking for more information about homesharing? The team at HomeShare Alliance would be happy to connect and help you discover whether homesharing may be a solution for you and your aging parent(s). Contact us today to learn more.