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The Sandwich Generation: Humour, managing stress & caregiving


Survive the sandwich generation (middle-aged) while caring for both growing children and elderly parents.

The Sandwich Generation: Finding Humour in the Chaos of providing care to both children and parents.

Hello, fellow Sandwichers! Are you finding the humour of providing care to both children and elderly parents? Probably not yet. But if you're reading this, you likely know my story, because it's our story. I sometimes feel like an alien. My kids don't care about today because it's all about passing things off to tomorrow, my parents don't care about tomorrow because it's all about today, and I just want to go back to yesterday when I didn't have everyone mad at me for taking care of them. Sound familiar? Welcome to your 50s, and the sandwich generation.


So what exactly is the sandwich generation? It's the reward multiple generations of parents get for growing up. Its where they find themselves caring for aging parents and growing children, i.e. sandwiched between their parents and their children, all while trying to keep their life from resembling a dark comedy. And the best part: its taboo to even call it a burden or even discuss burnout?


From Playdates to Doctor Appointments: Balancing Young Families and Healthy Elders

Now if you are early on in your sandwich process, lets say age 40 or around that, you’re in this zone as both parents and children. You're caring for young children who need constant attention, and just when you catch a breath, your parents call needing help with the Wi-Fi again.


So, what do you do? Try to implement a family command centre with a giant calendar and color-coded tasks. It’s less about micromanaging, it’s more about chaos-managing. This way, you won't double-book a soccer game and a cardiologist’s appointment, a typical challenge for caregivers of both young and elderly family members. And for heaven’s sake get your parents to babysit without feeding the kids all the junk food you never had access to as a child.


Middle Ground: Managing Moody Pre-Teens and Aging Parents

So, you survived the terrible twos, the terrorist threes, and your next reward? Now you're in your 40s and 50s, negotiating with pre-teens who speak mainly in eye rolls, while coordinating health care that respects your parents' independence. Parents who show you their love with that all meaningful stare-down of course. You know the one, it’s the “I’m not stubborn, I just know better”.


So, how do you survive that stage? Use tech to your advantage. Digital calendars for appointments and group chats for updates keep everyone in the loop. Regularly scheduled family councils (BBQ!!!) are key for middle-aged adults balancing their own needs with those of their children and elderly parents. It can help air out grievances before they become another episode of “Everybody loves Raymond”. 


The Teenage Tightrope: Guiding Almost-Adults and Elder Care, a dual role many find themselves in

Alright nicely done, you’re just now coming into your own as a parent. Now your adult children are shaping their identities, however your elderly parents might be losing parts of theirs. Everyone seems to be a teenager except you.

How do you hold on to your sanity here, when as a caregiver, you're juggling the needs of your adult children and aging parents? You will need to somehow foster responsibility and empathy by involving your children in the caregiving process. Don’t worry, they are resilient and can take it. Don't believe me? It's the same phrase we the sandwich generation hear as we balance providing financial support with the emotional toll of care. Give your adult children something small such as simple errands for their grandparents. This helps them grow and gives you a breather, now that you are a middle-aged caregiver.


Let’s get a little serious here. You may have come across this situation, as one of my friends did recently. He went to visit his mother who suffers from dementia, at her Elderly Home, a reality for many adult children providing care to their aging parents. She sometimes forgot who he was, a poignant reminder of the challenges faced when an adult child becomes a caregiver for an elderly parent. He took his kids with him as it was a birthday or some other meaningful event. He was worried they would be hurt if she didn’t remember their names either. In this case, at that moment in time, she did.  It was a bittersweet realization that even in tough situations, moments of joy can persist. So just keep in mind that some moments are a little harder than others.


Survival Tips for the Sandwich Generation

Here are some tips you can use to navigate caring for elderly parents (baby boomers) and growing children (millennials).


Financial balancing act: It’s all about Benjamin’s. It's more than just budgets and bills; it's about ensuring your financial burden doesn’t overwhelm you. Be prepared for some unexpected expenses, some more heartbreaking than others. The best way to deal with that is to save for those unwanted days, so you can avoid both the financial and emotional hit at the same time. Try your best, put a little aside for financial support for both your young and elder dependents.


Career and caregiving: You got an MBA, a PhD, a BBA, but really you need to keep your J.O.B. Your work doesn’t pause (really don’t you wish it did) just because you are the primary support at home. Speak to your HR about flexible work arrangements. They might be more understanding than you expect, especially in today’s world where employer support is at its highest, and if you arm yourself with a plan. Remember, managing your work means avoiding needing financial assistance too.


Social Life Isn’t Optional: Time to go where everyone knows your name (your Cheers reference). Carve out time for friends and hobbies. It's not selfish; it’s self-preservation and managing stress. Even an hour or two a week can recharge your emotional batteries. Sometimes that's just better than family support.


Protect Your Partnership: Don’t forget to Netflix and Chill (I just learnt that). With everything going on, your relationship with your spouse or partner can take a hit, especially when you're a middle-aged caregiver balancing the ever-increasing needs of your children and elderly parents. Schedule regular check-ins and date nights that aren’t about logistics—think of it as relationship protection. 


Mental Health Matters: Keeping it together! Feeling overwhelmed is normal, but don’t let it define you. You need to take care of you. Whether it's a professional therapist or a strong support group, getting that emotional support is a sign of strength. And remember your friends are sometimes the best to remind you about self-care, especially if you don’t feel comfortable with a professional yet.


Remember, managing multigenerational care is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t need to come in first, you just need to finish the race. Accept the chaos, find humour in the mishaps, and enjoy this time in your life as much as you can. It won’t last forever, and you will miss it all with time. One day you’re changing diapers. Next day they are changing yours (consider it payback for a job well done). 


So to the new and old members of the sandwich generation: Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back. You're doing great, even when it doesn't feel like it. 


For more life-managing tips and a good dose of camaraderie, head over to www.eleuhealth.com. Sign up for our newsletter and join a community that really gets you.

 

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