Elderly parents are living longer. Children are often dependent for more years than expected. Add to this the ongoing responsibilities to spouse/partner and jobs, and there is little wiggle room for the millions of family caregivers who find themselves squeezed in the middle as the “Sandwich Generation.”
When you are pressed on both sides like this, it’s easy to feel guilty and lose sight of the joy in your life. To reduce guilt, support your resilience, and make sandwich caregiving more gratifying, look for easy ways to dedicate some quality time on a regular basis to each of your key relationships—including with yourself!
- Ensure parent care is not just a rote set of to-dos. Instead, take stock of what you enjoy about the person or situation. Is there a daily comic you could share for a laugh? Or memories to savor by scrapbooking together or labeling old photos and recalling past times?
- Enlist the help of children living at home or nearby. Maybe your teen or young adult child can cook meals, do shopping errands, or drive mom where she needs to go. As with parent care, also identify activities you and your child can enjoy together. Look for your child’s strengths and let them be the leader or teacher now and then.
- Keep your noncaregiving relationships alive. Don’t neglect your partner. Make regular dates for one-on-one fun time. Watch out for continual conversation about caregiving. This is just about the two of you. And don’t forget your friends. Caregiving may be a big part of your life, but it’s not all of who you are. Dedicate regular time—even just short texting—to stay in touch with your buddies. Caregiving isn’t going to last forever. You don’t want to lose them.
- Do something once a week to boost your professional self. Read an article related to your career. Make a call to a colleague for a quick networking session.
- Take some “being” time for yourself. It’s easy to get swept up in “doing” all the time. Give yourself at least 15 minutes a day for emotional or physical renewal.