Being a caregiver is a full-time job. Of the roughly forty-three million unpaid caregivers in America, the majority of them today are members of the Sandwich Generation. A Sandwich Generation caregiver is one who finds him or herself caring for the needs of multiple loved ones of different ages.
If you are a Sandwich Generation caregiver, you know that while rewarding, this can be a daunting responsibility. On the one hand, you need to get your children to and from school, help with homework, and take them to various extracurricular activities. On the other hand, you need help aging parents or grandparents with their medical care, physical therapy and doctor appointments, daily medication schedules and feeding times. These dual roles, plus taking care of yourself or working full-time at your job, adds an entire new level of difficulty.
Everyone you care for needs your complete attention. Yet how do you do juggle the different responsibilities of each person and the stress that comes from the responsibility on your shoulders? Let us share with you the five tips we share with our clients who find themselves facing this challenge.
1. Plan well in advance. A well-defined schedule and organized calendar is a lifesaver for a busy caregiver. It makes staying on top of ongoing commitments and showing up to new, weekly appointments much easier. If you are a pen and paper type of person, color coordinate your calendar for each age group and highlight the immediate action items to keep them visible. You may want to place various calendars around the house and keep a planner in your purse or car to always stay on top of your day. If you are more of a tech-savvy organizer, use a calendar that can connect to ‘the cloud’ and keep all of your devices synced together. This way, when you update your phone calendar, your tablet, computer and smart watch will update as well.
2. Create a contingency plan. Life will go awry, especially when you least expect it. The best caregivers always have a backup plan. What happens if you were supposed to attend the science-fair, but your mom becomes ill? What do you do if your grandmother requires medication at 4 p.m. but your child’s soccer practice was inconveniently rescheduled to the same time? Exploring every possible scenario before it happens encourages you to find solutions and create a contingency plan before any emergency occurs.
3. Ask for help before you need it. Every caregiver needs an extra set of hands every once and a while. The key is not to wait for a crisis to ask for help. If you do not have a spouse, partner or adult child who can help you, don’t wait to look for other options. Find a trustworthy neighbor, friend or family member who can lend a hand when you are facing a tough situation. Also, explore paid caregiver alternatives early for when you need help and no one is available.
4. Make time for yourself. As a caregiver you spend the entirety of your day caring for other people. Every once and a while, you need to schedule a respite visit for yourself. No one can be “on” or “in charge” all the time. Recharging your batteries, even if it is just for a few hours, allows you to be sharper and ready to juggle whatever the next day throws at you.
5. Make a daily list and prioritize it. Prioritizing can be a lifesaver when you are a caregiver. Your children and your senior family members will require different levels of priority at times. For example, if your father is suddenly ill, prioritize his health care needs. Although your daughter may have a bake-sale the same day, allow yourself to buy pre-made cupcakes for the bake sale instead of making them from scratch. Put your effort and energy into completing your daily caregiving responsibilities but be sure to create different groups such as “need to do, “may need to do,” and “want to do.” Therefore, you can focus on what is truly important in the moment and leave the rest for when you have more time and energy.
We know caregiving isn’t easy for anyone. It can often be a thankless role and we do want to express our heartfelt appreciation for all you do as a caregiver. If you need assistance or are ready to take the next step to plan for a senior family member’s long-term care needs, do not wait to seek assistance.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community about trust and estate planning, veterans issues, and how to protect what matters most.