Are you a member of the sandwich generation? If you have children, you know it’s a big responsibility being a caretaker. Although parenthood comes with rewards, it also comes with a tremendous amount of stress.
Now take that responsibility of being a parent and imagine the level of stress when you become a caretaker of a elderly parent or grandparent.
Most of the time, we become caregivers to our parents or grandparents while we are still raising our own children, which is what the “Sandwich Generation” stands for and creates. We, the caregivers, are supporting two generations. And, with that the stress levels can go through the roof for the caretakers.
So, why do we do it?
Some of us have a feeling of obligation. People are living much longer lives and adult children are stepping up to the plate to care for their parents or grandparents out of obligation. It’s just the right thing to do, I mean, our parents spent at least eighteen years raising us, right? Prepared or not, we choose to enter the sandwich generation.
Others who have had a close relationship with their aging parents or grandparents do it out of love. In your mind putting your love ones into a nursing home or care facility just feels wrong.
There are so many reasons as to why you may not want your family members in a care facility. Whether it be obligation, love, commitment or lack of money… fully knowing and understanding the responsibilities that come with being a caretaker and learning how to deal with the stress will make it a smoother transition for all involved.
Think of the term sandwich generation as a real sandwich. You have two slices of bread on either side of the meat and whatever else is inside. The slice of bread on the bottom is your children and the slice of bread on the top is your aging parents or grandparents. You as a caretaker are the meat and everything else between the bread. You get to be the main ingredient in the sandwich-the meat. These people: your children and your elderly parents are dependent on you. Many call this person (you) the “backbone” of the family.
It can be a rewarding experience if you can plan ahead of time. Even though, there are situations that will not allow the time for planning, you have to understand that there are and will be pitfalls to the situation. There are many decisions you must consider before becoming a member of the sandwich generation.
You are going to need to have a plan. Remember- you are dealing with two generations: Your children and your elderly parents. And, you many need many of the same things for both since your children aren’t able to fully care for themselves, yet. And your elderly parents who can no longer fully care for themselves. Are you feeling the squeeze of the two slices of bread yet?
Here is a short list of things to consider as a sandwich generation member:
- Dressing & bathing.
- Do you take them or do they take the bus?
- After school activities
- Time you spend with your children (plan for it!)
- Finances (if you are already strapped, you could run into trouble.)
Your Elderly Parent
- Dressing & bathing: will you need to do that or can they still do it?
- Safety you need to keep your parents safe. (this one is huge!)
- Will you need to modify your home with:
- Chair lift if you have a second floor.
- Safety rails in the bathroom.
- Medical equipment? Will you need a hospital bed with rails so your parent doesn’t fall out of be? Yes, this does happen.
- Alarm if you have a parent that wonders during the night.
- Transportation: Your Elderly parent will need a way to get from home to appointments. Who will be the driver? You?
There is a lot to handling being a member of the sandwich generation. I personally believe that if you are or have been the primary parent or “at home parent” of your children you will handle the situation better.
And then, there is the change in the financial situation. Who will pay for the additional costs? Did your parent save money throughout their lives or are they dependent on social security, Medicare or Medicaid?
How will you handle everything? Here are just a few more thing you can think about while you are considering becoming a member of the sandwich generation:
- Will you become a Power of Attorney or maybe Legal Guardian to your elderly parent? If your parent cannot handle their finances anymore, you need to be able to write checks for them and use their money for any expenses they incurred.
- If your elderly parent has limited or no money then you need to be able to locate and put into place programs that will provide for your parent.
- How will you get your elderly parent and his friends together to socialize?
There are only so many hours in the day. I know, you won’t be able to do everything. But, that is where some of the stress and frustration comes into play. It is always best to have a talk with your spouse and children before taking on even more responsibility. If your family is willing to stand behind you and help you, it will cut down some on of the stress and keep you from burning out while you are a member of the sandwich generation. And, then there is the Club Sandwich Generation that so many of us will have to deal with…
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