4 Pieces of Advice for the Sandwiched Generation – Contributed by Neil Heater
Maybe you thought these would be the years of ease, the time of your life that would allow you and your spouse to vacation and do the things you felt you had to “wait” to do. Your children are grown and now life is yours for the…experiencing.
Wondering what happened to make that fantasy go poof? Maybe the following will sound familiar; your sons and daughters found the cost of living upon graduating from college was more than they could handle, your teen at home is getting into trouble and your parents are in need of care. You are in the middle of two generations. You are the Sandwich Generation. How do you cope with all of this as you get closer to your own retirement? The financial consideration is a given, but many do not account for the emotional toll this burden can cause.
Set Realistic Expectations and Deal with the Present
You and your loved ones may want to think you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you’re only human. Boundaries should be established early on in your caregiving relationship. These emotional safeguards will give you personal space that should be respected by all your family members. Learn to say “no” when someone’s request threatens your peace of mind by putting too much on your plate. Furthermore, do not get into a habit of evaluating your perceived past mistakes saying I “could have” done this or “should have” done that. Doubt has no overall benefit and brings unwelcomed guilt that has no place in your life. Simply tell yourself you are performing to the best of your capabilities and be satisfied that you are giving it your best effort; the rest is simply out of your hands.
Prioritize your time
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the varied tasks you have to perform seemingly all at once; you cannot let your daily pressures become overwhelming, so make sure you stay organized and consistently re-evaluate your priorities. The last thing you want is your teen son to drive you over the edge or your own parent start to become a “burden.” Use today to break up your priorities into manageable pieces, look at what must be handled immediately and what can be temporarily postponed.
Find Emotional Support
When you need help, do not be afraid to ask for it. Reach out to friends and family willing to support you and help. Perhaps ask your older children to help you cope with your new responsibilities for your ailing parents—even if it means being more independent themselves. The truth is, it’s hard to go through this alone. It is important to express your emotions instead of keeping them bottled up, so find a trustworthy confidant you can confide in so you don’t lash out at others. There are services and support groups available in which you can connect with others who are going through similar experiences.
Make Time for Yourself
Finally, do not forget to make time for yourself. Set aside time personal time for yourself and time to spend with your friends and spouse. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time away to be able to recharge and come back a better caregiver. If you are finding that you need a break, ask a family member to step in temporarily. If your parent is mentally aware but physically compromised, consider enlisting the aid of an emergency alert system for seniors like Fall Alert. With a simple push of a button, your parents can receive help, even if you’re miles away. So don’t feel guilty for getting away from it all—your emotional health will ultimately benefit everyone.
Being in the Sandwich Generation does not mean you have to disappear in the middle. It simply means you have the right frame of mind and emotional strength to cope with everything that is pressing upon you. You are the core and the substance, the meat and the cheese. You don’t have to let the bread cave in.
Neil Heater is married with an amazing best friend he calls his ‘Dear wife’. With 2 grown sons in college he has discovered that getting older is nothing more than a great part of this journey we call life. He is a Freelance writer (www.writetonote.com) that lives in Denver, Colorado and looks at every day as a blessing and an opportunity.