Many of us have been dubbed the “sandwich generation:” middle-aged individuals caring for aging parents while simultaneously raising children ranging from infant to young adult in age – a group sandwiched between two generations. According to the Pew Research Center 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s are caring for a parent and raising a child. And about 15% of middle aged adults is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.
Pushed and pulled in many directions, these family caregivers take serous risks to their mental health and well-being. There’s the emotional strain, especially from caring for a relative with dementia or a debilitating illness. And there’s the physical strain, of constantly having to be on alert, being pulled in multiple directions and having to be in too many places at one time. These caregivers struggle with raising a family and maintaining the health of another – all while addressing their career growth and personal aspirations.
Caregiving is demanding, most individuals are thrown into the role without proper training or education. The same individuals are usually isolated from their surroundings and eventually the demands take a toll on them. Without being properly prepared for the position, many people struggle with taking care of themselves while caring for others. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and to actively seek all available resources to help you through this rough patch in your life.
Seek a Support Group
It’s obvious that you can’t divulge your true feelings to your ‘patients’, but that doesn’t mean you should have to keep your thoughts bottled up inside. Contact your local hospital, church, synagogue or community center to see if they offer support groups or functions. Having an environment where you can openly share your feelings and swap care-taking strategies can help alleviate your stress and provide you an outlet. Being around other individuals who are in the same situation as you can also provide comfort in knowing that you are not completely alone.
Get Help Online
Online discussion forums, social media channels and websites have provided support for about 25% of family caregivers. While having a support system offline is important, it’s also a good idea to hit the internet to have a 24/7 support group and all the questions to your answers at your fingertips. Additionally, for some the anonymity that the internet provides gives them more comfort in expressing their true feelings.
Some websites to visit include Caring.com, caregiver.com, aarp.org and the support section of agingcare.com
Start a Journal
It might seem juvenile, but a journal is a safe place to write out your thoughts and feelings. The pros: none of it has to make sense, no one has to see it, and it keeps you grounded with the constant inner monologues that go through your mind. Your journal doesn’t have to be complete negative however, you can also jot down everything that you’re grateful for; memories you’d like to log; or even keep memory logs of your loved ones that you can hold onto and look back on forever.
Sometimes a lot of your stressors can stem from just not having any order in your chaotic life. Getting organized by keeping a calendar or planner can do wonders for saving time in your day. There are also apps available online and on your phone that you can take on the go to help you keep track of things like appointments, medications, notes and to-do lists. Maintaining even some semi-balance in your life can help you feel in control and alleviate any stress you have from your situation.
Make Time for YOU
It’s easy to get caught up in the wants and needs of everyone else, but that’s no excuse to completely ignore your own. Having a whole day or even week to yourself can sometimes seem impossible, but taking even snippets of time throughout the day can do wonders for your mood. The next time you’re waiting for the doctor, take that time to go for a quick walk outside or to make a phone call. When situations get tough, simply walk away and give yourself five or ten minutes to recover and clear your thoughts.
The goal of taking time off for should never be about becoming a better caregiver, but instead to address the needs you have as a human being.