Relieving “Sandwich” Stress

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They call it the Sandwich Generation. A moniker that indicates a middle-aged parent that is also caring for their parent/s. It is becoming more prevalent as the boomer generation ages well into their 70s. The stress of being a parent and caregiver at the same time compounds for those carrying stress on both sides. The generation being the “middle” of the sandwich. This squeezing triggers stress.

The American Psychological Association's Stress in America survey states nearly 40 percent of those aged 35-54 report extreme levels of stress (compared to 29 percent of 18-34 year olds and 25 percent of those older than 55). This stress takes a toll on personal relationships as well as a person's well-being as they struggle to take better care of themselves.

The stress of the sandwich is both emotional and financial. According to the New York Times article in 2020: The Sandwich Generation Pays a Price, if you think you’ll become your parents’ caretaker in the future, experts suggest that you start talking to them about their financial situation now because it may take years for them to be willing to accept your help.

The following includes several tips for those considered a part of the Sandwich Generation:

  1. Assist parents in downsizing and organizing their home to keep things simple and organized.

    1. If time and finances allow, consider storage solutions and options when moving into a smaller space

    2. Hire a home organizer to declutter

  2. Develop a long-term care solution that reduces your stress

    1. Consider a 55+ active community that will keep social activities and sets the stage for building a longer-term community of friends

    2. Take time out for yourself to recharge and keep self-care a top priority

  3. Stay active and share the load

    1. When possible, find pockets of time to take a walk, listen to music while exercising and get outdoors to refresh your body and mind.

    2. Reach out to family, friends and neighbors who are willing to help and can offer you breaks in caregiving responsibilities

  4. Actively integrate multi-gen relationship-building activities. For example, your teenager can check in on their grandparents, help run errands or schedule fun family game nights including other friends, family to the mix to increase social interaction and some serious memory making opportunities like:

    1. Creating a family tree album with fun family stories and unique facts about family member personalities, complete with photos

    2. Q&A with grandma and grandpa to capture keep insights on their past and family history

    3. Create a family cookbook of special recipes and even cook them together for the larger family to enjoy.

The main key for generation “Sand” is to have hope and stay positive during the challenging times of caregiving. This season only lasts for a time and there are so many rewarding experiences that will come to you in this process. Having a support network will help in navigating and knowing others in your peer group that are also in the same situation is an important factor and can ultimately build stronger communities.

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