Caught In the Care Sandwich Of Young Kids & Elderly Parents

March 20, 2018

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, what social background you are from, your ethnicity, gender, religion or anything, there has never been a better time to be alive than now. As a society, we are so tolerant, so caring, so interconnected, so mobilized and just generally so much more awesome.

But for all the movements and changes that have improved society as a whole, there is one that still hasn’t really got the attention that it deserves: looking after our elderly parents.

The problem most people face nowadays is, as a whole, couples are having children much later on in life, something that has seen more and more families have to care for their elderly parents at the same time they care for their young children, which has to be one of the most challenging balancing acts ever known to humankind. But not just challenging; complex and emotional too.

You’re having to balance your own needs, your family’s needs, your children’s needs and the needs of your elderly parents who, let us not forget, are the people that brought us up. Nonetheless, it is this complete u-turning-role-reversal that is so hard to get used to. Suddenly, you are having to play parent to your parent and that’s not easy to accept or do.

You are, in case you are wondering, part of the Sandwich Generation, which isn’t just hugely under-talked about, it is also on the rise thanks to couples having children later, kids not being able to get onto the property ladder and people living to a much older age. It’s tough.

So, without further ado, here are some things you can do to keep the plates spinning and the people in your life smiling:

1. Always Seek Some Support
Nothing is going to take the stress of so much responsibility away, not completely, but sometimes just having someone to talk to, vent out or cry with can lead to a massive sense of relief. We know it’s never easy, but you should really try and talk to your family and friends about what you are feeling and what you are dealing with. Don’t feel guilty for it because it’s a lot to handle, just talk. If, however, you don’t want to talk to people you know, try joining a local support group of some kind. What you’ll find is, well, you're not alone; your feelings are not isolated. Here’s the best bit about finding a support system though: not only will you be able to get the support you need or the advice that will help, you will also be able to support others too.

2. You Don’t Have To Be The Fulcrum
All too often it can feel like you need to do everything, which is because you take on most of the caring responsibilities. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to do absolutely everything yourself. In fact, we recommend you don’t. We recommend you find out a system where everyone can help everyone. It could be that your kids take on more chores around the house, something that will take the burden from you and teach them independence. Alternatively, you could schedule time each day where your elderly parents entertain your young kids; teach them to paint or help them conquer puzzles or anything like that. This will remove some of the responsibility and time and that can make a world of difference.

3. Know Where To Care
This may seem like an odd thing to say, but there are so many options to be considered here. For example, if your parent insists on staying in their own home, then you need to figure out if its possible for you to schedule in time to accommodate this or whether you need to hire a homecare visitor to help with personal tasks. If this isn’t doable, then you might want to consider the possibilities of your parent(s) moving in with you. Like we said, there could be a way to make this work by having each other help. It could be you have a spare room, you might need to add a fully-fitted garden room to your backyard or if mobility is an option, given up a downstairs room. Of course, if none of this is viable (and, let’s be honest, there would be a lot of stress and strain with both), you should consider more long term care options, such as moving your parent into a care home. To do this is the most loving way possible, we recommend you keep your standards high and look around ones that still promote a lot of independence, offer a wonderful community spirit and all the amenities a person could want.

4. Self-Care Still Needs Focus
When we were growing up, we were taught you won’t be able to properly look after someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. And it’s true. Plain and simple. The problem is, it can be so easy to stop looking after yourself when you have to look after both your children and your parents at the same time. It’s natural to stop prioritizing yourself when life is hectic. Don’t let this happen. Our advice: pop a note on your fridge that reminds you to exercise, to eat properly, to get enough sleep and to see your doctor regularly. Don’t just stop there, though. Find a way that you can have some you time too. It could be that your best friend can have the kids for a night and your sister can look after your parents, in which case go and enjoy whatever it is you love doing. The more you look after your own sanity, physical wellbeing, and mental health, the easier you will find it to care for those you love.

Like we said, if you’re feeling the pressure of looking after your parents and your kids simultaneously, you are not alone. So don’t let yourself feel as though you are and don’t feel guilty if you start to struggle. The best thing you can do is accept the hardships and then find a solution for them.
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