In Part Two of our late summer series, How the Sandwich Generation Does It All (by Not Doing All of It), we’re focusing on Empowerment. First, let’s review how we got here. The Sandwich Generation includes people mainly in their thirties and forties who are caring for both their kids and their aging loved ones. There is great potential for this to be an overwhelming and unsuccessful experience for everyone, but there are key things you can do to improve your success. Start with home care, as well as empowerment and communication. Be prepared to ask for help in each of these three elements.
Empowerment in this context is asking for help within your support system. Your support system typically includes some, or all, of the following:
- Your adult siblings
- Other close relatives, like cousins, aunts, and uncles
- Dear friends that you see regularly because your kids go to school together, attend the same religious organization, and/or play a sport together – in other words there are regular opportunities to see one another even when your schedule is very busy
When you are caring for your aging loved one, the support of your primary network, consisting of your spouse and kids, is key. If a spouse and/or children are not in the picture, these same ideas apply to whomever is part of your primary support network. Use communication to support and strengthen your network by reviewing your schedule regularly and by helping everyone feel like they have a say in what is happening. It’s also important that they understand they can speak up and share when they aren’t happy with how things are going. Your kids, particularly, may have all kinds of different emotions when an aging parent (their grandparent) becomes a more regular part of your immediate family. They may be happy, but they may also feel sad or worried. They may even feel scared because they feel like they are partly responsible for their care (even though they aren’t). Give them opportunities to take on more household chores, and use your other supports to ensure that their primary schedule isn’t affected (asking your friends for help getting them to and from school and other activities, for example). Empowering your kids and your dear friends, to help you achieve more, can be a positive experience. It is almost certain you will be pleasantly surprised at what everyone can do.
If you have adult siblings, caring for your aging parent should feel shared and thus easier but this also hinges on good communication. Talk about who is doing what and try to find a middle ground where everyone feels respected. Remember that every sibling is going to have their own opinions about how things should be done, and high emotions can make everyone want to be less open, not more. Openly communicating is going to empower your sibling team.
It’s possible you know who your “other close relatives” are, because they have expressed their willingness to help you in your aging parent caregiver role. Please accept help from them. They may be able to have a standing visit day with your loved one (who is their loved one, too). Standing dates are very helpful when building a weekly schedule that balances all of your responsibilities. Visit dates are also genuinely therapeutic, providing positive socialization and companionship for your aging loved one.
Thank goodness for dear friends. If you are willing to ask for help, your everyday friends that you see almost every day as a result of similar activities and schedules are going to help when they can. Mainly, they can help you with your kids, which gives your kids important consistency and confidence their activities won’t be greatly affected. Studies regularly show that socialization is key to health and happiness, so be sure you also ask your friends to hold you accountable, ensuring you connect socially at least one time per month. Celebrate your village!
- Empower your spouse and kids to help
- Empower your siblings, close relatives, and dear friends, too
- Openly communicate, and expect great things from your support systems
Empower your aging loved one – and yourself – by calling Cooperative Home Care today!