In a nation with a rapidly-growing population of over 54 million adults aged 65 and older, the difficulties families face in raising their own children while looking after the welfare of their aging parents is a pervasive and ubiquitous issue that crosses all demographics. To aid in addressing a topic of such significance to American seniors, Belmont Village Senior Living recently hosted a webinar entitled, “The Sandwich Generation,” presented by speaker, counselor, and dementia consultant and educator Tami Anastasia M.A., CSA. Several facets of this issue are explored in the webinar, many of which are often misunderstood by large portions of the American public, including the unique challenges that today’s generation faces that often go ignored or unspoken, and useful tools, support, and information on the task of being a “dual-caregiver”.
The moniker, “Sandwich Generation” was coined in 1981 by a social worker named Dorothy A. Miller to describe adult children who are responsible for taking care of their elderly parents and their children at the same time. Studies show that nearly half (47%) of people between ages 40 and 50 are “Sandwich Caregivers”, with roughly 70% of the demographic being women and 30% being men. While these statistics show a significant disparity in size between genders, both men and women are equally affected in regard to having their personal and professional lives stretched to a “danger point” as they struggle to balance the tasks required of a multigenerational caregiver.
In the webinar, Anastasia unveils a powerful set of “S.A.C.R.E.D.©” coping tools – a memorable acronym and self-care guide for “Sandwich Generation” families comprised of the following tenets:
- Stop “should-ing” yourself. Don’t give in to self-defeating thoughts about what you “should” do. Instead, replace “should” with what you can, will, and want to do as a caregiver.
- Acknowledge your own feelings and emotions as well as the ones of those around you to gauge how you’re doing emotionally and to recognize ways to be proactive.
- Comfort and compassion are critical. Find ways to incorporate comfort and compassion in your own self-talk. You’re more likely to feel caring and compassionate for others when you afford yourself the same.
Continuing the “S.A.C.R.E.D.©” coping tools, the webinar includes suggestions that every adult child or parent should find helpful through their caregiving journey. These strategies, which were developed over many years of counseling the elderly and those suffering from dementia, provide crucial advice for those caring for their aging parents, such as:
- Resources are required. Ensure resources are readily available for aging parents and children and reach out to close friends, family, and professionals when you feel overwhelmed.
- Establish an emergency plan. Have medical, prescription, legal (including will and trust), POLST or DNR/AND (do not resuscitate/allow natural death) related matters in place and ready for immediate access. Coach family members on what to expect in case of an emergency and keep them informed and ready.
- Delegate tasks and ask for help because one person can’t possibly do everything on their own. This is a special time when stress can peak. “Help is at hand, and there are options. You’re not alone,” says Anastasia.
As a result of managing multiple responsibilities, a typical “Sandwich-Gen” lifestyle can lead to a multitude of issues, such as a weakened immune system, stress from job loss, marital instability, various home-life struggles, coping with family concerns, and more. These stressors, accompanied with the constant state of heightened alert that these caregivers experience, can often lead to depression, illness, burnout, and unexpected emotions like resentment.
The emotional and physical struggles associated with prioritizing care are not to be overlooked. As Anastasia describes, “Resentment doesn’t occur right at the beginning of the caregiving journey but is rather built up over time. This provides a significant dilemma among the ‘Sandwich Generation’ as they often feel they must handle care on their own without professional help or help from friends and family. A common example is the tendency of family members to resent other family members who receive overt praise for doing what they perceive in their eyes as the bare minimum.”
“Coping mechanisms like these are life-saving,” Anastasia says. “Self-care, even just 10 minutes a day, is the single most important thing you can do. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will survive this journey.”
The host of the webinar, Maria Cura-Castro, is part of the community relations team at Belmont Village Senior Living Los Gatos, the newest Belmont Village community coming to the Bay Area in March. Belmont Village Los Gatos will host an open house event on March 19-20, and all are invited to privately tour the beautiful, new community.