In the United States, one in ten adults are taking care of their elderly parents while also raising children under the age of 18.
The “sandwich generation” was originally recognized in the early 1980s as an underserved group dealing with particular difficulties and high levels of stress. Sandwich generation's caregivers can gain several advantages, including more time with family, deeper intergenerational ties, and children who see parental caregiving as an example. However, caring for aging parents and grandparents has become a second full-time job for many of these middle-aged people. Stress, anxiety, and depression are already more common in caregivers than in the general population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused caregivers’ stress levels to spike, especially those who belong to the sandwich generation. In May 2021, Divya Kumar's mother passed away due to a neurological illness that had slowly taken her life. Kumar's father lacked the medical jargon needed to describe her mother's health in detail. Before her kids could go back to class (if Kumar visited her parents), her entire family had to give the school proof that all PCR tests were negative. The global pandemic, as well as the decline in in-home health aides and adult day care services, are having a crushing impact on caregivers.
In their extremely hectic schedules, caregivers frequently lack the time to seek out self-care or the plan of how to fit it in. Online resources have proliferated to offer assistance and services that were previously only available through in-person interactions. A support group or therapist who comprehends and can relate to the situation of the caregiver can also be helpful.
To make it easier for you to ask for assistance when you need it, caregiver support specialist Donna Benton advises making a "I want" list. Benton recommends practices like yoga and meditation to assist caregivers develop resilience. Additionally, she advises carers to actively attempt to be in the present rather than dwelling on caregiving or other pressures. Resources for carers and eldercare differ by state and municipality, so caregivers should look up their local agency or even give them a call on the phone. The fact that every family has different demands makes providing care to the sandwich generation both difficult and complex. Contact a geriatric social worker through the community organization who can help the caregiver's family navigate the resources and benefits that are available.
So as you can see, sandwich generation caregivers clearly need help. Here are some pointers provided by mental health professionals for those who are unsure of where to begin.
1. Make self-care a priority
Oftentimes, caregivers are too preoccupied to find time for self-care. Without it, the plates will crash. Many resources required in-person visits prior to the epidemic but are now available online. Look into telemedicine, meditation apps, and online resilience training.
2. Counseling and support groups are helpful
Counseling can assist caregivers in deciding what has to be prioritized and what can wait. A therapist or understanding support group could also be beneficial.
People "need to be heard, recognized," according to psychotherapist Paul Cohen, LCSW, who works with couples from the sandwich generation.
3. Create a network of allies
According to Donna Benton, PhD, director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center, "You need a team." She proposes forming a support group without close family members. friends, physicians, neighbors, clergymen, or even the grocery store clerk.
4. Ask for help
Ask your family and friends for assistance. Don't assume that others know what you need because they can't read minds.
If caretakers are unsure about where to begin, Benton advises creating a "I wish" list. Write down your thoughts when you're upset, such as "I wish someone would make me dinner" or "I wish someone had driven Mom to this appointment."
You can pick from your list when someone offers assistance or when you require it.
5. Take mental and physical breaks
In order to help caregivers develop resilience, Benton promotes mental breaks like yoga and meditation.
Benton claims that caregivers make an effort to be there, even when taking the dog for a walk or taking a shower. Similar advice is given by Issenberg: "Take a break. Frequently.”
6. Take advantage of caregiver resources
Benton oversees the USC Family Caregiver Support Center, a public project and external resource.
"We offer a wide range of services, including personalized care plans, for family caregivers." Legal assistance, counseling services, and other resources are offered at no or very cheap cost.
For information on eldercare and caregiver resources, caregivers should look online or contact their local organization.