The sandwich generation is made up of adults with children of their own and whose aging parents now require care, and for those whose parents have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, this role can be especially challenging. That’s because those experiencing memory loss tend to experience a significant decline in self-sufficiency. Stuck between your children’s needs and those of your parents, then, if you’re a member of the sandwich generation you may struggle to find balance and can quickly become exhausted and overextended. Still, despite all of this stress, you can thrive with the right support.
Choose Child Care
Daycare is expensive, but whether you have a slot you can use once or twice a week or a babysitter you can call when you need a night off, child care is a must have for adults in the sandwich generation. The most important thing is that you find a care provider who is committed to your family, who can provide your children with enrichment, and who can meet your family where you are. Your children will benefit from the added interaction and from having parents who aren’t exhausted all the time.
Did you realize when your parents first began needing support? Unless they suffered a rapid physical or mental decline, the shift probably took place slowly so that you began providing more help. Whenever possible, then, it’s important to encourage your children and your parents to be self-sufficient. Even adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia can perform many basic tasks with the right guidance, whether that includes gentle reminders, pictures demonstrating the order of a task, or close supervision. Just because your parents are aging, doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the household, and for those with memory loss, maintaining some degree of self-sufficiency can slow decline.
As for your children, they should become more self-sufficient as your parents become less so. This means giving young children age-appropriate chores, setting up the home so that they can perform tasks independently, and providing positive feedback when they master new skills. Older children can even help their grandparents with tasks when appropriate.
Know Your Limits
If you expect that you’re going to need to care for aging parents, or you’ve already started to, you need to communicate with them regarding what they want for themselves as they age and what you can provide. For example, can you provide full-time nursing care if they needed it or would they have to live in a facility? Could you provide medical care but not psychological care? Many children of aging parents commit to providing care at home only to find it’s not possible.
Based on what you’re able to provide, research potential supports that you could turn to if you are no longer able to care for an aging parent. For example, if you’ve noticed signs of memory loss or dementia, you might consider a local memory care facility. Memory care communities support older adults suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia with activities of daily living, provide a safe environment, and offer a range of therapies and other activities to keep them stimulated and engaged. Much like assisted living, these programs support individuals at different levels of function, including those with serious health problems.
Consider Your Work Commitments
For some members of the sandwich generation, it can be too much to work and care for both parents and children, which is why some consider quitting their jobs. This is something of a catch-22 because quitting can put your family in a financial bind, but you’ll also save money because you won’t need to use a babysitter, daycare, or nursing service as often. Others have a more personal objection to leaving their jobs – self-fulfillment. Being a full-time caregiver is isolating and tends to fall most heavily on women, and leaving your job can mean losing an important social outlet.
There’s not one right way to be a part of the sandwich generation, and for many adults today, it’s simply an inevitable fact of life, but what’s most important is that everyone in your life is receiving the care that they need – no matter who is providing it. Don’t push yourself past your limits. We step up when we think we are doing what’s best for our families, but sometimes you need to put what’s best for you first.