According to the Pew Research Center, almost half of adults in their 40s and 50s are living in the “sandwich,” working full time and caring for their minor children, but also caring for elderly parents. This so-called sandwich generation carries the responsibilities of child care and education, planning for their own retirement, and caring for their aging parents.
Here are five ways to help effectively manage the caregiver role:
- Ask for help. You might think you can do it all yourself, but here’s the truth: You cannot. Asking for help doesn’t show weakness; it shows compassion and intelligence. Find resources for your parents at the local senior center, or try the local county senior services office (Cobb County 770-528-5355; Cherokee County 770-345-2675), which have lots of information and resources.
- Find the right lawyer. The maze of Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits is complex, and you likely need guidance to help you and your parents navigate it. The right lawyer will be attuned to the needs of the senior population and provide information on a variety of resources. An experienced attorney can guide your family through estate planning that may assist you in qualifying for various benefits, thereby easing some of the financial burden imposed on the sandwich generation.
- Plan as far in advance as possible.If your parents are still healthy, now is the time to discuss their desires for the future. While it is easy to put off uncomfortable conversations, especially if mom or dad is not thrilled with the idea of needing help, it only makes things more difficult in the future.
- Keep the lines of communication open.As with any relationship, open communication is key. This is especially important when parents are reluctant to accept help, or are located far away. Either situation lends itself to hiring someone else to handle day-to-day caregiver tasks. Perhaps having someone come in to clean or cook once a week (someone who also is happy to sit and chat for a while) will be perceived as less intrusive, but can help provide enough assistance. Talk with your parents about what they want for the future, what they like about the help they are receiving, and communicate regularly with the caregivers.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Studies have shown that the burden of caregiving is significant, even if we don’t think of it as a burden. Up to 50 percent of sandwich generation caregivers report anxiety, emotional stress and even depression. Caregivers who neglect their own needs have an increased risk of developing serious conditions themselves. Do the best you can and remember to care for yourself, too.
By Josh Nelson, contributing writer and elder care attorney with Nelson Elder Care Law, LLC.