Balancing Act: Caring for Your Kids … and Your Parents
Are you caring for children and an aging parent? “Sandwich generation” caregivers often feel overwhelmed. How do you make the most of your time?
Many parents are used to juggling hectic schedules: school events, sports games, play dates and more. But what happens when another ball is thrown into the juggle – the care of an aging parent?
More and more middle-aged parents are in this position as their own parents get older and need help with daily living. Many “sandwich generation” caregivers feel stressed and overwhelmed by this dual responsibility. Here are some ways to find balance and make the most of your time:
- Keep a master calendar. Use it to keep track of your own appointments as well as your kids’ schedules and parents’ doctor visits. If you use a day planner, make sure to add any new entries to the family calendar, too, each night. Include reminders about ordering medical supplies or prescriptions.
- Overcome the distance. Living far apart makes it hard to keep tabs on aging parents. It may be easier to relocate them closer to where you live or even in your own home. If your parents live far away, use your visits to set up a local support network you can tap into when extra help is needed.
- Stay informed about parents’ health. That will make it easier for you to make decisions and set priorities for their needs when stretched for time. Getting access to medical records may be as simple as having your parent sign a waiver. Getting a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can also provide this access. This will also let you make medical decisions if your parents are unable to do so for themselves. (A standard Durable Power of Attorney covers financial but not medical issues.) Also, make sure your parents have an up-to-date Living Will so you know their medical wishes.
- Schedule quality family time. Sure, maybe you can talk to your parents while taking them to the doctor or catch up with your kids en route to sports practice. But you should also try to set aside special time to be with your parents, because illness can lead to feelings of isolation. Also, try to reconnect with your partner and children if elder care has not let you spend quality time with them.
- Encourage your kids to pitch in. Set up a rotating chore wheel so kids who are old enough can help out in small ways. Teach them how to prepare simple, no-cook meals when you’re pressed for time. Thank them for pitching in and let them know how much they’re helping the whole family during this stressful time.
- Find respite care. Specialized adult day care centers are an option when you don’t want to miss your child’s soccer game. Many offer transportation and have skilled nursing staff to give medicines and monitor mealtimes. You could also hire a home health nurse or aide to take over your duties a few times a week.
- Take care of yourself. It’s important to stay in control of your own life while looking after loved ones. Even when you’re strapped for time, eat well and exercise to stay energized and healthy. Don’t neglect your own pursuits and interests, either. Friends can be a good source of support.
Being the caregiver for both your children and your parents can be the ultimate challenge. Know your limitations and when it may be time to seek other care for a parent, such as an assisted living facility. Spreading yourself too thin is not always the best thing for your children, your parents or your marriage.