No, I’m not talking about people who remember carrying peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school in a lunch box. The Sandwich Generation are the people caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children. The numbers are staggering.
According to Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. In addition, between 7 to 10 million adults are caring for their aging parents from a distance. And census stats show that the population of older Americans aged 65 and up will double by the year 2030 to over 70 million.
There is an incredible amount of stress in caregiving. Most Americans will be informal caregivers at some point during their lives. Informal unpaid caregivers provide 80% of the long-term care in the United States. Caregivers are at a high risk for their own health issues, emotional collapses, abuse of drugs or alcohol or outright exhaustion.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver, especially a Sandwich Generation caregiver, here are some starter tips that you can share which may help:
- Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Caregiving services may include transportation, meal delivery, home health care, home modification assistance, and legal or financial counseling. There are adult day-care centers in most communities.
- Ask for and accept help. Be prepared with a specific list for others who ask if they can help. Don’t be afraid to ask family to help out.
- Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t the perfect caregiver. There are no perfect parents and no perfect caregivers. Just do the best you can with what you have.
- Identify what you can and cannot change.
- Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.
- Join a support group for caregivers. In most communities, there are groups that meet around caring for specific needs such as dementia. It can be a great way to make new friends and pick up tips from others facing similar challenges.
- Make time for yourself. One way or another, do something at least once a week for yourself. Each day, do your best to eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep.
- Know your limits. You must know yourself and your family well enough to know when you need to let someone else be the caregiver.
The above ideas are just a beginning. Your local Area Agency on Aging can give you much more specific guidance. And most of all, ask God to guide you to the right resources you need. Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
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