5 Tips to Cope With ‘Sandwich Generation’ Stress
Mary Mobley manages her full-time job, parenting her 16-year-old son, and caring for her 85-year-old mother, a resident of Willow Towers Assisted Living resident. She worries about saving money to pay for her son’s college education and her mother’s declining health – all while wondering about how life is going to play out for her as she ages. There’s not a lot of time left to care for herself.
“I find it extremely stressful,” says Mobley, 56. “The burden is cumulative. There’s a constant fear about what’s around the next corner.”
She is part of what’s called “The Sandwich Generation.” This growing demographic includes almost 50 percent of all Americans in their 40s and 50s who are caring for a parent age 65 or older, while also raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child over 18 years of age. And about one-in-seven of all those “sandwiched” are providing financial support to both older and younger generations.
The ramifications are profound: those in the Sandwich Generation are suffering huge stress at a time in life when they hadn’t anticipated the additional burden. While the trend shows no signs of slowing, help is available.
Self-Care tips for those caught in the middle
United Hebrew of New Rochelle knows that the stress placed on families and loved ones can be crippling, which is why they understand that the quality care they provide is not only for their residents—it extends to families.
“We provide peace of mind,” says Nora O’Brien, executive director of Willow Towers Assisted Living and Willow Gardens Memory Care, both located on United Hebrew’s campus of care. “Here, we take a holistic approach. Our staff design enriching daily activities and provide a consistency of compassionate care so that our residents’ days are happy, comfortable, and filled with purpose.”
“We understand that family members have a lot to worry about, and we can help relieve some of the physical and emotional stress of caregiving,” added O’Brien, who offers these five tips for those who find themselves “sandwiched”:
- Accept help from others. Visiting a family member can take lots of time and be emotionally exhausting. Speak with friends and family to see if they can help you with visits or phone calls. Most people are eager to help, but may not know how.
- Communicate efficiently: Rather than sporadically fielding questions from people looking for updates, send out weekly or biweekly group emails or establish a phone chain.
- Use community services: Senior centers, service organizations, and localities offer a variety of programs and services for seniors including field trips, and transportation, and meal options that lighten the burden.
- Take a break: Caring for a family member can be draining. Facilities such as United Hebrew provide respite care so that you can take a vacation, spend time with your children, and recharge your batteries.
- Tap the experts: When your healthcare needs seem to be spiraling out of control, turn to the experts to help navigate your healthcare and residential care options.
As for Mobley, who visits her mother at Willow Towers as often as four times per week, relying on the facility’s caring staff has made a big difference in her stress level. The fact that they are taking good care of her mother goes a long way to ease her anxiety because she knows her mother is in good hands.
“They are retaining her dignity and recognizing her as an individual, and I really appreciate that,” Mobley says. “It’s not taken for granted that the residents there are living well … and that there is still living to be done.”