Surviving The Sandwich Generation
Are you a parent, who still has children at home going through the everyday woes of parenting AND you are an adult child, who is thrown into parenting your own parent? Welcome to what they call "The Sandwich Generation".
It is bittersweet. Your grown- yeah! You finished school, have a career, got married, had kids, plan your dream vacations, or some variation of these... All of these major milestones are amazing and stressful at the same time.
Then BAM, your parents get sick- some illness or tragic event has hurdled them into the position of being incompetent or incapable of taking care of themselves due to physical or mental health. What can you do as a caregiver to find some sort of direction and balance? Here are some quick tips:
1. Time management. The first thing that happens is a roster of doctor and hospital appointments. If you can, contact your Human Resource department to use the Family Medical Leave Act at your job. Your parents' doctor can sign off on this. Having this time away from your everyday work demands can give you an opportunity to deal with other business necessary to manage your parents' care. Get everything down in your planner/phone calendar to stay on top of things. And when you make doctor appointments, be mindful of your own kids' and your own appointments so as not to have schedule conflicts (considering work obligations as well).
2. Managing Finances. Yes, when you become the caregiver, most of the time you become the "money keeper". You also find out exactly what condition your parents' finances are really in. In my case, I had to clear out all debt and close several unnecessary ends before I could get a good handle on managing the finances. You can use some kind of organizing system or online money management tool to help. Just make sure you keep your parents' money separate from yours as your figuring things out.
3.Legal Paperwork. It seems so easy, yet sounds so complicated. Well, its both. First, I went to a website such as legalzoom.com and printed off the Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney forms. Read whatever forms you choose carefully, that they encompass all of what you want covered. After completing these forms, its suggested you inform your parent clearly as to what is going on and then go to the bank (or another institution) together to get the documents Notoraized. This makes them a legal document. And this is most helpful when managing finances, #2. Give a copy of the paperwork you have to every financial situation involving your parent(s) i.e. utility companies, banks, credit cards, etc.
4. Build a support system. This could be additional caregivers who will care for your parent while you are working or away. It could be a relative, friend, or skilled worker. Just make sure you have an agreement on what needs to be done and set medication times. Also, seek respite for times when you just want to rest. Have enough people in rotation that no ONE person gets exhausted. Many times, the sound of "you will be paid" is a great incentive for most. Your local Department of Human Services can sometimes qualify someone to receive payment as a caregiver if they apply. If having them cared for in your home or in their own home is not possible, then check into local retirement communities that offer the kind of services your parents' need. Be sure to take a tour, ask questions, and get a good feel of the environment before making a decision.
5. Take time for YOU. Finally, don't forget who you are- you are many things but you have an awesome life to live too! You deserve to enjoy it. Plan a vacation, a date night with your spouse, a "mental health" day from work to be alone, or time doing a hobby you enjoy. You are important, now more than ever. God wouldn't put more on you than you can handle so believe it when I say- You are stronger than you think! Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup.