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How The Sandwich Generation Can Reduce Caregiver Burnout

HOW THE Sandwich Generation Can Reduce Caregiver Burnout

Sandwich Generation

Can Reduce Caregiver Burnout

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Introduction

As your loved one ages, family dynamics can shift, and relationships can change. Depending on any health challenges your loved one may face, you might find yourself taking on a new caregiving role in your family. Of course, between your professional obligations and helping out your kids, you might wonder where you will find time to squeeze in caregiving. This makes you a part of the sandwich generation: adults who are juggling raising a family, growing a career and caring for an aging parent.

Family caregiving is often an essential task taken up by adult children, and it looks different for every family situation. Sometimes, caregiving for an aging parent means offering assistance with daily care tasks or setting up medications weekly. However, even if your parent doesn’t need extensive care or assistance from you and your siblings, coordinating transportation, appointments and other chores on their behalf can end up taking quite a toll on your mental health and your relationship.

With the right information at your disposal, you can make better decisions as you aim to keep your relationship with your loved ones intact while ensuring they are staying as healthy as possible.

Even if your parent doesn’t need extensive care or assistance from you and your siblings, chores on their behalf can end up taking quite a toll on your mental health and your relationship.

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Contents

1
What is the sandwich generation?
The sandwich generation is a term used to describe adults who are actively raising children while also caring for their aging parents.
2
What is caregiver burnout?
Family caregivers in the sandwich generation are at an increased risk for caregiver burnout, sometimes called caregiver fatigue.
3
What are some tips for sandwich generation caregivers?
If you are a sandwich generation caregiver, you are busy in all parts of your life.
4
Is my loved one safe and thriving at home?
Even with all your assistance and support, your loved one might not be thriving at home alone.
5
How is senior living a solution to sandwich generation stress?
There are solutions that can alleviate the stress that goes hand in hand with caring for an aging parent.
6
Ready for the next step?
If you are struggling with your role, or if your loved one is not thriving at home, senior living can be the support both of you need.
Download a PDF version of this guide
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What is the sandwich generation?

The sandwich generation is a term used to describe adults who are still actively raising children while also caring for their aging parents. 

Sound familiar? If your calendar is full of work presentations, watching your high school child’s baseball game and making it to the pharmacy to pick up your loved one’s prescriptions, you are a member of the sandwich generation.

Named for being squeezed between caring for kids and caring for aging parents, the sandwich generation faces unique challenges to their physical and mental health. After all, it’s not easy trying to juggle a thriving career, parenting obligations and coordinating care for an aging loved one.

However, if you find yourself in the sandwich generation right now, you are certainly not alone. The Pew Research Center reports that more than 1 in 10 parents are caring for an adult in addition to their children. These sandwich generation parents spend about three hours per day on caregiving duties, split between their children and their parents.

The Pew Research Center reports that more than 1 in 10 parents are caring for an adult in addition to their children.

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CONSIDER THESE SANDWICH GENERATION STATISTICS.

Members of the sandwich generation are not all the same, but there are certainly some common threads that tie family caregivers together. Do any of these statistics reported by the Family Caregiver Alliance feel familiar to you or your current caregiving situation?

  • 66% of caregivers are female.
  • The average family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who also works outside of the home while providing 20 hours per week of unpaid care to her mother.
  • Female family caregivers spend as much as 50% more time providing care than their male counterparts.
  • 20% of all female workers in the United States are also family caregivers.
  • 22% of women had to take a leave of absence from work to attend to their caregiving duties.
  • Caregiving reduces paid work hours for middle-aged women by more than 40%.

Caregiving reduces paid work hours for middle-aged women by more than 40%.”

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What is caregiver burnout?

Family caregivers in the sandwich generation are at an increased risk for caregiver burnout, sometimes called caregiver fatigue. Caregiver burnout is defined as a state of general physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that occurs in caregivers who aren’t getting the help they need from others either physically or financially.

While symptoms of caregiver burnout can look different from person to person, there are some red flags that could point to it:

  • New feelings of anxiety
  • New symptoms of depression
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances, such as sleeping too much
  • Frustration, anger or irritability that is new
  • Decreased immune response, or getting sick more often and for longer periods of time
  • New diagnosis of heart disease
  • Weight gain, weight loss or other nutritional challenges
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Using unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse to manage stress and daily life

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Almost every family caregiver will feel the effects of burnout at least once, but the symptoms don’t have to last for years or cause serious medical challenges. In fact, you can find relief from caregiver burnout by planning to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Taking care of yourself a priority is the first step in setting good boundaries that prevent caregiver burnout. Other strategies can include:

  • Scheduling respite care for your loved one at least monthly
  • Asking for help from other siblings or family members
  • Finding a support group to attend regularly
  • Talking to your physician about your caregiving role
  • Attending counseling appointments regularly with a counselor experienced in family caregiving dynamics
  • Considering senior living as an option for your loved one

DISCOVER HOW TO PREVENT (AND RELIEVE) CAREGIVER BURNOUT.

 

Almost every family caregiver will feel the effects of burnout at least once, but the symptoms don’t have to last for years or cause serious medical challenges. In fact, you can find relief from caregiver burnout by planning to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Taking care of yourself a priority is the first step in setting good boundaries that prevent caregiver burnout. Other strategies can include:

  • Scheduling respite care for your loved one at least monthly
  • Asking for help from other siblings or family members
  • Finding a support group to attend regularly
  • Talking to your physician about your caregiving role
  • Attending counseling appointments regularly with a counselor experienced in family caregiving dynamics
  • Considering senior living as an option for your loved one
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What are some tips for sandwich generation caregivers?

If you are a sandwich generation caregiver, you are busy in all parts of your life. The right tips can help you make sure you are being efficient in your caregiving tasks as well as staying as healthy as possible while you support your loved one.

1. KEEP INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONE IN ONE PLACE.

It’s easier to grab a Medicare number or find a recent recommendation from a specialist if you have information about your loved one readily accessible. Maintaining a file of information for your loved one can make life a bit easier and tasks more efficient.

You can keep information in a notebook, on your computer or in a caregiver app such as Caring Village or CareZone. Be sure to include information such as:

  • Social Security number
  • Birthdate
  • Insurance numbers, including Medicare
  • Emergency contact information
  • Medical information, including allergies and diagnosis history
  • Medication list
  • Legal documents, such as a will and durable powers of attorney
  • Copy of any advance directives, such as a do not resuscitate order
  • Doctor contact information
  • Local pharmacy information

If possible, get this information from your loved one before they are unable to pass it along to you. It is also important if there are named powers of attorney for those designees to be the ones who are taking care of those specific tasks.

Consider setting up a standing grocery delivery every few weeks.

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2. AUTOMATE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. 

Today’s market is one of convenience, where you can have nearly anything delivered to your home overnight. Take advantage of this by automating caregiving tasks as much as possible.

Make stopping at the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions a thing of the past by instead opting for delivery. If you are worried about your loved one receiving the medications at their door due to cognitive decline, schedule the delivery to arrive at your address instead.

While you are scheduling regular deliveries, consider setting up a standing grocery delivery to your loved one’s home every few weeks. If they like to cook but would rather skip the shopping for ingredients, grocery delivery or meal planning deliveries through Blue Apron or HelloFresh can be convenient for you and for them.

You can also sign up to be a contact for updates from your loved one’s physician’s office. Getting a newsletter about upcoming flu shot clinics or a reminder in your inbox to schedule an annual appointment can be convenient and informative.

 

3. ASK FOR HELP WITH SPECIFIC TASKS.

Just because you might have taken on the responsibility of primary caregiver for your aging loved one doesn’t mean you should have to take on the role alone. Asking for help can be your biggest step to preventing caregiver burnout.

When you ask for help from your family members, you might assume they will know what tasks need to be completed. However, most family members who are not the primary caregiver likely do not know the ins and outs of how you assist your loved one on a daily basis. In order to receive help from others, you have to be as specific as possible with what you need. For example, try sending out an email each month that has specific tasks listed that family members can sign up to take off your plate. You are more likely to get the targeted help you need this way, and your family members are able to know exactly what needs to be done.

Just because you might have taken on the responsibility of primary caregiver for your aging love done doesn’t mean you should have to take on the role alone.

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Here are a few ideas of tasks you can ask for help with, no matter if your family members live nearby or far away.

For those who live nearby:

  • Drop dinner off to Dad every Tuesday evening.
  • Take Mom to church at 10 a.m. every Sunday.
  • Sit with Dad for a few hours every Friday.
  • Take Mom to her dentist appointment at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

For those who live far away:

  • Call Mom every Monday evening after dinner.
  • Research Dad’s veterans benefits to see if they cover home care costs.
  • Schedule Meals on Wheels each month.

4. MAKE MEDICATION MANAGEMENT LESS DANGEROUS.

Older adults are more likely to make medication errors than their younger peers, which can lead to serious health complications. Recent research reports that between 75% and 96% of older adults acknowledge they frequently make mistakes with their medications. Even more troubling, older adults are the ones who most frequently call the poison control hotline due to medication errors. Medication management is also one of the tasks sandwich generation caregivers take on that requires a regular commitment. However, you can make medication management a bit more efficient than filling up a pillbox weekly. Here are a few tips for safe medication management:

 

Between 75% and 96% of older adults acknowledge they frequently make mistakes with their medications.

5. SCHEDULE DAUGHTER OR SONS DAY

Finally, as a sandwich generation family caregiver, you might find yourself grieving over the relationship you once had with your aging loved one. When a family member becomes a primary caregiver, they can struggle with simply being a daughter or son again.

The solution to this confusion — which can affect the caregiver and the older adult — is to set regular days or times when you set aside caregiving tasks and instead focus on being a son or daughter again. For example, remind yourself at the beginning of every visit with your loved one to ask about their day and talk about your work or family over a cup of coffee before you begin setting up medications, pulling sheets from the bed to wash or starting to cook. Or, plan to have lunch together one Saturday each month when you don’t ask caregiving questions or perform caregiving tasks and instead just enjoy being in one another’s company.

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Is my loved one safe and thriving at home?

Even with all of your assistance and support, your loved one might not be thriving at home alone. However, you can get so lost in your caregiving role that you might not realize they are unsafe or simply not thriving at home.

A benefit of living near a parent is that you can stop by their home frequently. If you know what to look for the next time you are there, you can find warning signs that could indicate your loved one is not safe or thriving at home. These can include:

  • Disorganized checkbook or bank account
  • Expired foods in the refrigerator or the cabinets 
  • Overflowing laundry baskets
  • Decreased attention to personal hygiene or appearance 
  • Empty social calendar 
  • Statements of loneliness, anxiety or depression

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE.

When possible, begin a conversation with your loved one about how they are doing at home alone before a medical crisis occurs. It is stressful trying to find support or a senior living community (if needed) while also managing a hospital discharge plan. While it can be a bit intimidating to approach your loved one about your worries, it is better to have that talk sooner rather than later.

Begin a conversation with your loved one before a medical crisis occurs.

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Here are a few things to take into consideration as you begin planning your conversation:

Take your loved one's personality into account.

No one knows your loved one better than you do. When you focus on a conversation that avoids phrases that will make them shut down or be defensive, you can have a more productive conversation.

Talk to your siblings. 

Whether you connect over the phone or gather locally for coffee, it’s important to speak with all your siblings and any other family members who have a vested interest in your parents’ future and well-being. It can complicate the conversation about senior living, but having everyone involved from the beginning will help you to avoid any confrontations or hurt feelings later.

Be an effective listener.

Whether you are listening to your siblings before speaking with your loved one or you are listening to your loved one during your conversation, it is important to make everyone feel like their opinions are valued — because they are! Resist the urge to jump in and interrupt; instead, practice active listening techniques that keep everyone on the same page.

It is important to make everyone feel like their opinions are valued — because they are!

Prepare your talking points.

It can be helpful to have specific talking points outlined before you have an initial conversation about senior living with your loved one. While this outline doesn’t have to be rigid, it can help you say what you are most worried about and not miss anything.

Follow up and move the conversation forward.

In most cases, a conversation about senior living or other support services is not going to end with just one chat. Instead, you should table the discussion each time it becomes emotional or heated. Revisit the conversation and be strategic about bringing up the topic again.

It is important to make everyone feel like their opinions are valued —because they are!

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How is senior living a solution to sandwich generation stress?

While sandwich generation family caregivers are at an increased risk for burnout, there are solutions that can alleviate the stress that goes hand in hand with caring for an aging parent.

Asking for help and utilizing technology to make caregiving more efficient is a good start, but often the best solution is to enlist professional help and let professionals in senior living communities take over caregiving tasks.

Senior living communities are designed to serve older adults as well as provide support to family members. If you are wondering if senior living could be a solution to your caregiving stress, here are a few benefits you and your loved one can enjoy when senior living comes into play.

IT CAN GIVE YOU PEACE OF MIND.

Exceptional senior living communities can be a place where residents and their family members are able to take a deep breath thanks to features such as security services, emergency response systems and around-the-clock caregivers, depending on the lifestyle option. But it’s not just in emergencies that family members feel peace of mind.

For the children of HumanGood resident Dorothy, it was knowing their mom was busy making new friends and staying active.

I don’t have to worry that she will be bored. None of us are worried that she will be bored, which is huge.

DeeDee

Daughter of HumanGood resident, Dorothy

IT PROVIDES YOUR LOVED ONE WITH MAINTENANCE-FREE LIVING

Another perk of senior living that benefits the resident and their family caregivers is maintenance-free living. Exceptional communities ensure that they take care of everything from landscaping to home repairs to housekeeping visits. Now, when family members visit their loved one, they don’t have to worry about finding time to work on a project. Instead, they can just spend time together.

DeeDee noticed this right away and was pleased that her mom no longer had to worry about home maintenance or other tasks.

“She doesn’t have to worry about anything,” DeeDee said.

 

THERE ARE AMENITIES AND RESOURCES THAT MAKE WELLNESS MORE CONVENIENT.

Senior living communities feature a variety of amenities and resources that can make keeping up with health and wellness goals a bit easier for residents and their loved ones. For example, you can mark off the task of taking your loved one to their weekly outpatient physical therapy appointment from your to-do list if they live in a community that has a therapy gym right on campus. Or, you don’t have to worry about making extra meals to package and put in their fridge during your next visit because they can enjoy chef-prepared meals that are seasonal and nutritious in their community’s restaurant.

 

YOUR LOVED ONE HAS EASY ACCESS TO SENIOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AND EXPERTS.

Family caregivers can often feel overwhelmed with their caregiving duties simply because they don’t have the knowledge or experience they need regarding their loved one’s diagnosis. Fortunately, senior living communities are staffed with senior care professionals who are always willing to answer questions or provide guidance. These communities also offer opportunities to interact with local experts.

Senior living communities are staffed with senior care professionals who are always willing to answer questions or provide guidance.

SENIOR LIVING GIVES YOUR LOVED ONE A HEALTHY AND HAPPY SOCIAL CIRCLE.

Never underestimate the importance of friends, especially when it comes to seniors, who often face social group changes as they age. This can lead to social isolation, which is associated with an increased risk for a number of health problems. AARP reports that friends “make you smarter,” meaning that they help people of all ages — including seniors — avoid cognitive decline. Senior living communities surround seniors with countless friends to share their everyday life with.

You can find the support you need as well as stay on top of senior health topics through:

  • Support groups
  • Family events
  • Family lectures and presentations
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Ready for the next step?

Being a family caregiver is rewarding but hard work. If you are struggling with your role, or if you feel like your loved one is simply not thriving at home, senior living can be the support both of you need. Find a HumanGood community near you to learn more about our vibrant and lively lifestyle.

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Download a PDF version of this guide

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How The Sandwich Generation Can Reduce Caregiver Burnout