My role as a social worker in the Extra Mural program gave me a firsthand exposure to how taxing this double caregiver role can be on individuals and families with so many unknowns and so many demands placed on people.
If you find yourself supporting your children and your parents or relatives at the same time, either emotionally, physically or financially, you may feel some relief in the tips I share below.
How to recognize stress within yourself and lighten your load...
Set boundaries and ask for help-You do not have to do it all, there are supports available to you, much more than what was available generations ago and you don’t need to be a social worker to figure them out. When I was in this role, I noticed that people were very reluctant to ask for help as they did not know where to start. I promise you there are people who do know and can help you. People were often afraid of the cost or they feared their parents wouldn’t agree to it. You have permission to explain to your loved one that in order for you to sustainably help them, you need to re assign some things to other supports and you can discuss what they would need to feel more comfortable involving someone else in some part of their care.
Every human has a limit to their coping. Spreading responsibility among others in the family can be valuable if it works for your family, not every family this is possible. Remind yourself that the support doesn’t have to be done exactly as you would do it, as long as you aren’t responsible for every area of your loved one’s life. Now is possibly the time to step back and look at the big picture.
Have hard conversations with your loved ones-ask them to consider their wishes both personal care and financial and put these in writing. Ideally with a lawyer but there are living will and will templates online as a secondary option. This is so important that you aren't trying to figure out what they want amid the anticipatory grief you may also be feeling about the end of life. Also from a practical perspective, what needs to be considered with their assets, spouse etc. It may be hard to think about this but it's very necessary and you will not regret having these conversations. Even if they aren’t nearing the end of life, I would encourage you to plan for it. Prepare for the worst so you have some security for the future.
Know your personal limits. Be aware of the things you have given up, time with friends, sleep, healthy habits, time with your children or spouse. You need to schedule in your own down time, your entire life can’t go to being present for your kids, partner, and parents with nothing left for you. Likely, no one is coming to save you if you go down with the ship.
5. As women, we often naturally take on the care-giving roles but there is a personal toll for this. Challenge any guilt in asking for help. Most of the time people wish they had reached out sooner. There is no badge of honor when you burn out and can't meet anyone’s needs.
If you are part of the sandwich generation you are at a greater risk of depression and other mental health challenges, and it's likely you will struggle to prioritize your own self care.
If you need more guidance on this or don’t know where to turn to support your loved one, come to our Friday clinic and we can provide them with the appropriate resources to seek out.
We're here if you want to talk :)
Take the first step and call us for an appointment ...(506) 651-1239