If you are a caregiver for multiple ages, you know your job is not easy. Over half of the members of the Sandwich Generation, those caring for a minor child and an aging parent, find themselves balancing a multi-age caregiver schedule. The simple fact is people of different ages require widely different care, oversight and needs. While young children require a lot of supervised attention, seniors typically need more physical and health care assistance. For example, each age group has different daily demands from after school activities to physical therapy appointments.
Your multi-age caregiver schedules can rapidly become packed. Before you know it, your calendar is overflowing, and you are at risk of accidentally missing appointments and activities. In fact, you might find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when you simply remember to pick the children up from school or give the proper day sequence of medicine.
We know just how hard it can be for the family caregiver. This is a role that is often unpaid and over relied on. If this sounds familiar, there are a few tips we can give you to help juggle your busy lifestyle as a multi-age caregiver.
1. Find a local support system. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Find friends, family members or neighbors to help you when you need it most. You can speak with other parents at your children’s school to see about joining a carpool group. If picking up your children from school coincides daily with your mother’s physical therapy appointments, speak with your school about after school care. Take offers for help whenever they come along, and do not feel ashamed for asking.
2. Stay organized. The most frantic and scattered caregivers are ones that are unorganized. Never knowing what is happening next, who to prioritize or even what day it is, will take a toll on you. Invest the time to set up a calendar on your smartphone or buy a paper calendar from the store. You can even try color coordinating your schedule by either person, age-group or level of priority.
3. Do not allow guilt to sink in. Even the most successful multi-age caregivers feel guilt from time to time. This is because you love the people you care for and want to be everywhere at once. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Do not let yourself feel guilty! Try to give equal attention to all age groups and have open communication with people that are old enough to understand. If you have to miss an appointment with your mom because you want to watch your son at his spelling bee, do not feel guilty. Remember that everything you do is for the best and you will be there for the next appointment.
4. Do not sacrifice personal time. While it is typically the last thing that caregivers do, remember to take time for yourself! Recharge the batteries, take a few deep breaths and clear your head. When juggling so many people and priorities at once, you can easily get extremely stressed out. Do not let it get to that point. Take a few minutes every day or a few hours a week to do something that benefits you. Afterward, you will be able to be more invested in your responsibilities.
5. Take care of your errands online. To put your entire self into the people you care for, some other things may have to be pushed to the side. If you do not have time for grocery shopping, order your groceries online from the store or utilize a meal delivery service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Consider spending a few extra dollars a month on a house cleaner so you can spend that time with the people you care for. If you have no time to do laundry, research a laundry service in your area that can pick up and drop off your clothes.
Life can be stressful as a multi-age caregiver, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Take a deep breath. Remember why you are doing this. Do not hesitate to contact our elder care team as a resource.