July is Sandwich Generation Month, a chance to pay tribute to adult children who are juggling the demands of raising their own children while caring for their aging parents. The number of Americans 65 and older is projected to increase from 40 million in 2010 to over 88 million by 2050, doubling the ranks of those experiencing this stressful combination of responsibilities.
We expect to take care of our growing children. After all, isn’t that in the parenthood job description? Even after the last kid moves out and we are settling into the empty nest, if one of them drops out of college, loses their job or separates from a partner and boomerangs back, we let them come home. But with ailing parents it can be even more complicated.
From time to time, we all feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But for the sandwich generation, that’s especially true. The stress, guilt and exhaustion that come from trying to keep so many balls in the air can be overwhelming. One goal of Sandwich Generation Month is to raise awareness. Here are some tips so you don’t have to cope with all the demands by yourself:
Encourage your parents’ independence. Identify what they really need you to do and what they can handle. Have respect for their dignity, experience and wisdom as they make decisions and take responsibility. Step back so they do as much as they can for themselves.
Find professionals to help you out. Put this into place ahead of time if you live far away or before there is a crisis. Do your parents need a geriatric assessment or the support of a social service agency? Learn about health care advocates, specific gerontologists, in-home help and the continuum of care concept.
There are community resources available. Take advantage of them. Home health and companion care companies help with chores such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. And adult day care centers encourage supervised time for your parents to socialize while you get a break.
Sign the email list to the left of this post and receive our free monthly newsletter, Stepping Stones, full of information to help you, members of the Sandwich Generation. You can also download our complimentary ebook, Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching Your Goals. And log on again Wednesday for more tips that can put your mind at ease.