The sandwich generation.
Such an odd little phrase we’ve created for a very common situation in which people find themselves.
You’ve probably heard of it, but here’s a quick refresher. The sandwich generation refers to people who are “sandwiched” between two generations they are caring for: their school-aged children who are not yet independent, and their aging parents who are no longer independent and are now turning to their children for support and care.
To complicate things, those who find themselves sandwiched in the middle are typically holding down full-time jobs, too, often in a leadership/management role of some kind.
In short, being a part of the sandwich generation can be one of the most stressful times in life, often leading to something called “caregiver burnout.” Today, we’re exploring what caregiver burnout is and how you can find support while caring for your aging parents.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
According to the American Heart Association, caregiver burnout is “caused by long-term stress that can affect your physical, emotional and mental well-being.” It occurs when someone spends so much time caring for others, their own health begins to decline under the stress.
Unfortunately, caregiver burnout is pretty common. It’s estimated that 40% of caregivers feel emotionally stressed, 20% feel physically strained and 20% are financially struggling.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Sometimes the symptoms of caregiver burnout aren’t obvious to those affected. If you’re experiencing one or more symptoms from this list (provided by the American Heart Association), you may be on the road to caregiver burnout:
- Anger toward the person(s) you’re caring for
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities you once enjoyed
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Denial about your loved one’s condition
- Increased alcohol or smoking consumption
While this list isn’t exhaustive, these signs may mean you need to seek further support.
5 Ways You Can Find Support for Yourself While Caring for Aging Parents
You’re feeling the weight of caregiver burnout – luckily, there are steps you can take to stay on top of your health without sacrificing your responsibilities. Here are our top five ways you can find support, reduce stress and care for yourself.
1. Ask for Help
This one seems like the most obvious, but many people feel embarrassed or hesitant to ask others for help. It’s important to remember that asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a superhero, or less capable.
There are likely many people in your life who could help cross a few tasks off your list, whether it’s dropping the kids at school, grabbing your groceries or even just making themselves available to talk on the phone once a week. Here are a few other favors you might want to call in during this busy time:
- Ask a neighbor to mow your lawn or scoop your driveway
- See if your church group could prepare a few meals you could easily reheat
- Ask a long-distance to video chat with your kiddos while you complete other chores
- Inquire about free or low-cost before and after school programs for your children
Many people love to help others but also don’t want to come across as intrusive – by reaching out, you’re giving others permission to help you reach your goals and stay healthy.
2. Set Aside “You” Time
Often, the easiest things to eliminate from our to-do lists are the moments we’ve made for ourselves. Those morning walks could be shorter, right? And you don’t really need to get your hair cut this month.
While it may seem like there are no consequences to nixing self-care items from your schedule, they’re actually a very important part of staying healthy.
Set aside at least one hour for yourself each week if possible. It could be a trip to the gym with a friend, a long drive alone, or perhaps an hour carved out for your favorite hobby.
Whatever you choose to do with your time, remember that taking care of yourself is crucial to your well-being and health. When you’re healthy, you’re better equipped to take care of your parents and children.
3. Join a Support Program
Another great idea is to join a support group for caregivers. This way, you can connect with others going through similar situations. These people may have tips, insights or stories to share that could help make your life easier.
Beyond that, sometimes it can feel good to talk out your struggles – especially when you have a good listener or two.
Here in the Corvallis area, we love to partner with Lumina Hospice. Lumina offers several different resources for caregivers, including a 6-week educational course and a support group. They give an important reminder that even if there’s no one available to help in your immediate circle, there are still options out there to help lighten your load.
4. Consider Hiring Some Help
If you have some financial leeway in your budget or a well-funded emergency account, this may be a good time to hire some extra help. Whether it’s an in-home caregiver for your parents, a nanny for your children or a housekeeper to help with other chores – the costs may be worth it in this case.
Likewise, hiring a financial planner to help get your money in order for the future might be worth the upfront costs. An advisor has the tools to create a plan for your money, eliminating many financial what-ifs.
Stress and other symptoms of caregiver burnout can cause long-term health problems for yourself, costing you major bucks down the road. If spending a little extra now could offset those issues, it’s definitely worth your consideration.
5. Don’t Wait
Above all else, don’t push these feelings away to deal with later. If you ignore the warning signs, caregiver burnout can eventually cause major problems.
If you’re feeling the pressure of the sandwich generation, make sure to stay ahead of the stress with these five steps.
Plan for the Future with Clarity
Financial planning can be tough even without the stress of caregiver burnout – and Clarity is here to help. Click here to connect with a member of the Clarity team today.