The Canadian population is ageing. More and more Boomers are requiring assistance while the younger generation is facing rising housing prices and a higher cost of living. Stuck between these two trends while caring for both their parents and children is the rather aptly named sandwich generation.
According to Statistics Canada, over 700,000 Canadians aged 45 to 64 have children under 25 living with them while simultaneously caring for an ageing family member – and these numbers are rising.
Balancing work and younger kids, helping them with homework and managing a social life, while also taking care of an ageing parent can feel overwhelming.
If you are a part of the sandwich generation and feel the impacts of a “multigenerational squeeze”, these five self-care tips may help restore some balance in your life and make a challenging situation a little better.
It is better to be open and honest with your employer than have them wonder why your job performance may be lagging. Let them know you are a caregiver for an ageing parent. You may be surprised by their willingness to help you balance your needs with the needs of the business. In fact, with many companies now embracing a remote working model, more employers are also open to flexible working hours to help parents and caregivers accommodate their demands at home.
Additionally, by communicating to your employer that you are a caregiver for an elderly parent, they are more likely to understand when you need to take your parent to an appointment or leave work in case of an emergency.
In certain cases, some government benefits allow you to take extended time away from work to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured loved one.
With all that you have going on, it may feel like there are not enough hours in the day. As tempting as it is to try to get more done by staying up later, avoid sacrificing sleep.
Adequate sleep is critical to your physical and mental wellbeing. You need rest to do your job, support your family, and continue to provide care to those at home. Clocking in your recommended eight hours of sleep will also reduce your stress levels, curb food cravings, decrease your risk of depression, and improve your overall health.1
Encourage everyone in the house to embrace a healthy sleep schedule. Keep bedtimes and wake-up times consistent from day to day, including on weekends. A more refreshed household will, in turn, help reduce your demands as a caregiver.
Do you feel like you are spending all your time updating your second cousin in Moose Jaw about your mom’s last treatment? You’re not alone. Many caregivers feel burdened by the time-consuming responsibility of updating family members about the condition of a loved one.
Best practice is to streamline your process. Create a central place to share updates with everyone interested. Maybe it’s a group email or a family channel on WhatsApp. Find a place that works for the whole family and update it regularly. It’s also a great way to ask for help preparing meals, driving to appointments, or finding support when you need to go out of town.
You don’t have to do it all yourself. Remember that the load is far lighter when you carry it together. Putting everything on your shoulders isn’t an effective long-term strategy.
Prioritize financial literacy and responsibility from a young age so that your children can assist with future expenses, helping ease some of the financial pressures on you. Being open and communicative with your children as you navigate the routine and responsibilities of caring for ageing parents will also help them learn how to adapt to helping a loved one should they need to do so in the future.
Look for places where your children, spouse, family members or close friends can support you. Can they cook a meal or help with tasks around the house? Maybe they can pick up groceries or help with transportation.
If the senior you’re caring for has some mobility issues, think of accessible ways to include them in these weekly responsibilities. This sense of purpose can help improve their physical and mental wellness, encouraging them to feel more involved in the regular flow of the family.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s cliché, but true, especially for the overextended sandwich generation who have a lot on the go. If you are completely exhausted, you will have nothing left to give. Take the time you need to recharge. It is best for you and those you are supporting.
Carve out time to do things you enjoy—small or big. What are your hobbies and interests? Can you find new ones that will excite you? Consider scheduling in time each week to garden, read, watch movies, or do whatever helps you recharge. Or maybe it’s a night off once a week or month to meet with friends.
If you struggle to find time in your schedule to focus on personal interests, return to step four and figure out what someone else can do so you have the time and space to take care of yourself.
Be a Self-Caregiver
To be your best, you need to take care of yourself, and part of that is remembering not to be too hard on yourself. Taking on the financial, physical, and mental support for your children and ageing family members (while also finding the time to be a self-caregiver) can be daunting but is also fulfilling to be there for your family. You are doing your best, and that’s all you can do.