The sandwich generation faces a unique set of challenges. Along with looking after your children, focusing on work, and managing your social life, you also have the responsibility of taking care of your aging parents. The demands of daily life can already be difficult enough, and the added burden of caregiving can be overwhelming. However, there are effective ways to manage this transition. Here are a few ways to effectively care for aging parents while balancing your other responsibilities.
Assess Their Needs
The first step in effectively caregiving for your parents is assessing their needs and determining how you can help. Depending on their health conditions, your level of involvement may vary. When assessing your parents’ needs, consider their existing medical conditions, mobility, home safety, cognitive health, and proximity to family. How much support do they currently have and where do they need additional assistance?
After doing this, you’ll want to decide how you can best help your parents and create a plan to care for them. Do you have the proper resources available to help? For instance, if you live far away you may need to hire an in-home caregiver, consider having your parents move in with your family, or have them move into an assisted living facility. Remember, even if you can’t provide direct care for your parents, arranging assistance for them still shows your support and love.
However you decide to care for your parents, involve them in the conversation and decision-making process. This will help them retain a sense of control over their lives and help determine their preferences for care. Considering your parents’ wants and needs will make the transition easier on both ends and make them less resistant to change.
Lean on Others
It can feel weird switching roles with your parents and taking care of them instead of the other way around. Managing this transition along with balancing your other obligations with family and work is no small feat and often stressful. Although you share a special bond with your parents, that doesn’t mean you need to take on all of the responsibilities alone. In fact, leaning on others and asking for help can make caring for your parents much more enjoyable and successful.
Especially if you have siblings or a large family, you should lean on each other for assistance and support, and take turns with certain tasks if you’re able to. It’s also completely normal and understandable to ask your spouse, children, friends, and neighbors for help with other areas of your life, like getting groceries, picking up your kids from school, doing chores, and more. Having a strong support system to help you with tasks and to be an outlet to discuss your feelings can make taking care of your parents much less stressful.
Prepare Your Finances
Caregiving for your parents can be overwhelming emotionally, but it can also put strain on your finances. Depending on what type of care your parents need, you may need to buy medication, medical devices, care services, systems to senior-proof your home, and more. Especially if your parents move into your home or move into an assisted living facility, the costs can quickly add up, which can be stressful.
Although you can rely on your parent’s finances for some of the costs, they might not be able to cover all of the expenses, and you may need to manage their money for them. Before you start caregiving, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of your parents’ financial situation to determine how much extra funding they need. From there, you can create a budget for expected costs and learn how much financial assistance you may need to provide.
If you’re struggling to afford the costs, research government benefits like Medicaid, and other programs that can help your parents pay for care. You can also leverage your home’s equity for additional financial assistance if you’re a homeowner. Home equity loans can be helpful for this situation as they have a lower interest rate than a personal loan or credit card and come in a lump sum payment, so you can immediately start tackling caregiving expenses.
Take Care of Yourself
Between caring for your aging parents, looking after your children, focusing on work, and other responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time for yourself. Caregiving can be exhausting paired with demands of daily life; with so much focus on taking care of others, it’s also important to take care of yourself during this time.
At the very least, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your mental health. If you’re feeling drained, you won’t be able to effectively care for others in your life, so make yourself a priority. Whether you need an afternoon to yourself, a date night with your spouse, or a night out with friends, dedicate time to relax and unwind where you don’t have to worry about attending to others. Remember, practicing self-care isn’t selfish and will only allow you to be more present and attentive to your parents, family, and partner. If you neglect your needs, you’ll likely become overwhelmed and burned out.