For the Caregivers

As a mom and full time caregiver to my sister-in-law, I’m in a place that some refer to as the “sandwich generation” - caring for older adults while still in the throes of child rearing.

The term “sandwich generation” was coined by a social worker in the 1980s and basically refers to people, usually women in their 30s and 40s, taking care of their children and their aging relatives.

It can be a wonderful thing having so many generations under the same roof. In 2013 Pew Research reported 52% of adults in the sandwich generation report that they are “pretty happy” with their lives. I feel like I fall into that group.

Overall, this is a pretty sweet time of life. I’m thankful I can do this.

It can also be challenging.

Caregiving can complicate finances, cram schedules full, and it definitely adds stress.

I am constantly multitasking and there isn’t often much room in my sandwich life for me, the big cheese in the middle.

Knowing this, and knowing the high rate of burnout for folks in my situation, plus my own history with depression, I try to keep my focus on the essentials.

More than ever it is important to me to focus on the simple things that bring happiness and make life a little easier.

If you’re also juggling the needs of children, parents, grandparents, or other aging relatives all at once, perhaps a few things from my list of what is saving my life right now could also be of some use to you? I hope so!

Here’s what’s saving my life right now.

Three month at a time calendar

I’m managing eye doctors, dentist, and doctors’ appointments times seven. My sister-in-law has five separate doctors’ for her various conditions. Add in frequent blood draws, medicine refill schedules, and clinics and it is far too much to try to commit to memory.

Now, throw in the practices, social events, and normal family life and all of the calendar juggling it entails. I’ve got quite a lot to keep track of. I’m exhausted just thinking about it, ha ha!

I often have to know our schedule months in advance and having a calendar hanging in a central place in our home, the kitchen, where I can see three months at a time has been very helpful. Not only can I see it, but the whole family can check in with it, too.

Here is a similar three month at a time calendar - it’s been a life saver, for sure!

A Simpler To Do List / Lowered Expectations

With so much on my plate, I’ve had to lower my standards when it comes to housework and my daily To Do list.

Once upon a time I thrived by a very detailed, step by step list, but currently I’m feeling overwhelmed so the simpler, the better.

Some things about my life just aren't going to be picture perfect because that requires more bandwidth than I have right now. I've learned to be okay with ... being okay. I aim a little lower, but I hit my target more often than not now. 

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

The Caregiver.Org Learning Center

Caregiver.org has an online learning library. Book mark that one, friends. I wish I had known about it sooner in this journey.

You can read, watch, or listen on your own schedule to some of their most popular caregiver education programs. They know that caregiving is tough and you can't always attend in person training or support groups, so they try to make it as easy to navigate their site to find answers. They cover a lot of ground, a wide variety of experiences, and I'm really glad it is out there as a resource. 

Bonus: another fantastic online support place for caregivers is the AARP website.

If you're looking for some books about caregiving, there is a booklist on my website of the ones I've added to my personal library.

Seeking In Person Support

Speaking of support, hopefully you're in a situation where you feel supported, but if you're not please don't be shy about seeking it out. Odds are you will have to go looking for it, but it is there, I promise you. Don't walk alone on this journey.

I feel it is an area where it is really important to try and seek out in person support. Ask around (start with the doctor's office) and get referred to a local caregivers support agency. These agencies can help you find individual counseling, support groups, and even caregiver training.

Casseroles and cookies are wonderful, but what caregivers really need is emotional support and time for themselves. Give yourself the gift of seeking out other people you don't have to pretend to be "fine" with during this major life change.

I know your calendar is full, but make time for yourself. You need this. You deserve this.

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3 Comments

  1. Alexa

    Thank-you for all the information and links. I wish I had known of these earlier; there was nothing in the way of support in my area. I too was a member of the sandwich generation, caring for two and then one elderly and poorly parents until last winter, and your words remind me of how tough and yet rewarding it was. Keeping things simple was definitely something which helped: simple systems, simple expectations, and appreciating simple things. A very helpful and timely post – thank-you.

    Reply
  2. Elnora Chambers

    What a lovely, helpful post! Though We didn’t also have children at home, my husband and I spent 15 years helping his parents intensely as first one and then the other descended into dementia.

    Your words about lower expectations of yourself are particularly wise. It’s necessary for caregivers for self care.

    I’m absolutely delighted that you mentioned seeking local support and that you told about caregiver.org. We live in Southern California, where there’s a fantastic nonprofit for helping caregivers. Their tips helped us so much!

    The plus side of having children at home while you’re caregiving is that they give a happy, hopeful balance to the sad parts of caring for the adults you’re responsible for.

    Your post has no doubt helped many readers. Thanks for writing it!

    Reply
  3. Jackie Lee

    Hi Kara,

    I really enjoyed your blog post. It really made me reflect on myself and my opportunities.

    Reply

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