Are You a Member of the Sandwich Generation?
Being a caretaker to children is a big responsibility. It can be stressful at times and that stress can show up in your body physically. Add being a caretaker to an elderly parent and that stress compounds.
Thanks to the longevity of the elder generation, more adult children are choosing to step in and become part of the sandwich generation. Some do it out of a sense of duty – having been raised to believe it’s their responsibility to care for their aged parent.
Others do it out of love – they can’t imagine putting their parent into a nursing home. Whatever reason you step up to the plate, knowing the responsibilities and how to deal with the stress beforehand can go a long way in making the situation smoother for everyone involved.
The term ‘sandwich generation’ was coined to mean that a person is supporting two generations. The caretaker is often the meat that makes up the gist of the sandwich – the main ingredient.
While it can be a loving, rewarding experience for all involved, there are changes that can wreak havoc on your life and your family’s life if you’re not careful to avoid the pitfalls. Understand the financial commitment that you’re making.
Decide ahead of time how you’ll handle the extra expenses that will come up in the family budget. Who’s going to pay for the extra expenses? Financial pressure can put a strain on you that you want to deal with head on rather than letting it build. You may have to pay for things in order to help keep your parent safer physically.
Will you have to do anything to make the room safer for your parent? Will you need to install any safety rails in the bathroom for the bathtub and near the toilet? Will you need to buy any medical equipment such as a hospital bed to make sure your aged parent doesn’t fall out of bed?
If your parent is prone to nightly wanderings, will you have to install a system that alerts you whenever they’re out of bed? If your loved one is not at that point, but is unable to drive, who will make sure he gets to and from appointments? How will you find time to make sure he or she has an active social life with their friends?
Besides a financial commitment, understand the time commitment that you’re making. You only have so many hours in the day and if you’re like most people, you’re stretched to the limit.
How are you still going to find time for yourself? Not having time to unwind and refresh is the leading cause of burnout among family caretakers. The emotional toll it takes can be difficult to deal with.
Make sure that you still plan time for your children and your spouse so that they don’t even feeling neglected. Adding an aged loved one to the household can often change the family dynamics.
Talk the situation over with your family before you make a decision. It’s important that they’re in agreement with you so there won’t be resentment later. Having a plan in place before you make any moves can help keep the harmony in your home and in your relationship with your parent.
Hiring a Professional Eldercare Nanny
There can be a range of challenges involved with caring for the elderly and most of us, no matter how much we love our parents, just aren’t up to the task. You can’t quit your job to take care of your elderly parent, yet it’s clear that they’re at the stage where they must have some kind of help.
What can you do? Who can you turn to? You can hire a professional eldercare nanny to take care of your loved one and give you peace of mind. One of the biggest issues many elderly people have with aging is the sense of isolation that they feel.
They can no longer physically do what they used to do and so they start spending a lot of time at home. As a result, their social circle gets smaller and smaller. They become starved for companionship and long to have social interactions with others.
But like many adult children, you just can’t always be there when your parent needs you. You can hire an eldercare nanny, giving your loved one a wonderful experience. Some nannies provide simple companionship (live in or daily visitation) to the elderly if your parent is still able to take care of himself physically.
If your parent has shown signs that he or she needs help with personal grooming, an eldercare nanny can provide this service. It allows your parent to remain in his or your home and still maintain their sense of independence and dignity.
Sometimes as people age, they’re still able to take care of themselves, but they forget to do important things like taking their medication – and no matter how many times you remind them, it still doesn’t get done. Having an eldercare nanny can help your parent take their medication at the times when it needs to be taken.
Eldercare nanny services can provide someone to help make sure your parent eats nutritious meals at regular times – and a nanny can also help your parent get to his or her doctor or other appointments as scheduled.
Hiring a nanny will not only benefit your parent, but you as well. Too often, aged parents feel like burdens to their loved ones and hate to ask for help. They don’t want to interfere or get in the way. By having a hired nanny, they can get their needs met and they won’t feel like they’re draining you emotionally.
If your parent reaches the stage where he or she needs round the clock care and you don’t feel that a nursing home is the place you want them to go, then hiring a professional eldercare nanny is an option that can work for your family.
If you choose to care for your aging parent yourself, then an eldercare nanny can step in for the times when you need respite care so that you can have some time to unwind and take care of things you need to take care of without having to worry about your parent being left to fend for himself.
How to Know When It’s Time for Eldercare
Growing old is never easy for the person aging, but it isn’t easy for their loved ones who want to help but don’t always know the best way to, either. Even though your parent may have expressed a strong desire to remain in their own home, there may come a time when – for both their safety and your emotional well-being – you may have to make some tough decisions.
Before you make the choice of how to handle eldercare for a parent, you should remove any guilt you might feel from the picture. You wouldn’t be making a decision if you didn’t want what’s best for your loved one, and sometimes what’s best doesn’t always fall into line with what they want to do.
If you have an aging parent, there are signs that you need to be aware of that signify it’s time to intervene with his or her care.
First, you might notice more frequent falls or other injuries – such as she burns herself more often while cooking.
Secondly, you’ll start to see that your parent is losing weight. Forgetfulness is a natural part of aging and sometimes elderly people forget whether or not they’ve eaten. Many suffer from extreme malnutrition.
Third, you might notice your parent is exhibiting signs of hermit behavior. They don’t like to leave the house at all or they leave as little as possible. They’ve pulled back from their usual social outings.
Fourth, you’ll notice that they become more disorganized. They don’t pay the bills and sometimes might even experience their electricity or other utilities being turned off for non-payment.
Fifth, you see that some of their actions are dangerous to themselves and others. They might leave the stove on or forget to shut off running water. Kitchen fires can become a common occurrence.
Sixth, you’ll notice the home is falling into disrepair both outside and inside. A formerly neat home becomes dirty and you may notice items beginning to accumulate. The cleanliness issues can also be with your loved one.
You see that they don’t bathe or forget to bathe. They may neglect to brush their hair or to do their laundry. If they have a pet, they may neglect taking care of the pet or allow it to go to the bathroom inside the home and not clean it up.
Seventh, you’ll have conversations with your parent in which they’re saying the same thing they’ve said repeatedly. They can’t remember their doctor’s appointments or other engagements, either.
When it reaches this point, you have to make a decision on whether or not your parent can come live with you or if he or she needs the care of a nursing home. You need to take into consideration how much your parent can still do for himself.
Can he feed or bathe himself? What about bowel movement regularity (some forget and wind up with major health woes about this issue)? If you move him into your home, will there be someone there that can handle those tasks (emotionally as well as physically)?
You should also think about the space you have and how it would impact your life and your family. If your loved one will be left alone because you work and no one will be home, they need the care of a nursing home – where if they fall, there will be someone to help.
If you can bring your loved one into your home and can afford in home care for them, they might be an option you’d want to check out. If you can’t do it, then you need to look at the next best option and make a plan for their future.
Is It Time to Transition Your Parent Into a Nursing Home?
Moving a parent to a nursing home is a choice that no adult wants to make for their loved one. In making the decision, there will be a sense of loss, a sense of guilt and a sense of grieving over this new change.
Remember that no good parent truly wants to burden his or her child – and they certainly don’t want to cause you harm if they’re not in their right mind. You’re going to second-guess your decision – you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. Your parent might be angry or saddened by your decision, too – they wouldn’t be human if they weren’t.
How can you tell if it’s time for your parent to live in a nursing home? There are warning signs, some subtle and some obvious, that can let you know when the time is right. Below are some signs you should be aware of with your parent’s aging.
You parent’s personality changes. They seem angry over seemingly non-important issues. They say things to you that they normally wouldn’t say. They may say cruel or vulgar remarks when they wouldn’t have done that in the past.
They start to show signs of dementia. Some of the signs of dementia are not remembering where they put things to the extent that it interferes with their life. For example, they can’t go anywhere because they can’t remember where they left the car keys. They don’t know what day it is or what time it is. They have trouble communicating what they mean to say and then get angry that you don’t understand them.
They begin to show signs of poor health habits – not eating, not sleeping, and not changing their clothes for days on end. When you’re around them, you notice a strong body odor such as urine.
Their home begins to smell bad and looks unclean. They make very poor financial decisions and are often targets for people who would take advantage of them financially. They don’t get around as easily and are prone to falling down.
No matter how much you love your parent, if you’re not capable of providing full time care for them, the best thing you can do is to get them into a loving facility that can provide for their needs. In the case of a parent who develops dementia or Alzheimer’s, personality changes can occur to the point where they become a physical danger to you.
If your loved one balks at the idea of entering a nursing home, the best step is to have an open conversation with your parent and explain that you only want what’s best for both of you.
Understand that some of their reluctance is based in the fear of the unknown and the fear that they’re giving up all of their independence. Putting your parent into a nursing home will be the toughest choice you’ll ever have to make – but in the end, it can be the right choice for all who are involved.
Dealing With the Stress of Eldercare
Frustration is an emotion that those caring for their aged loved ones often experience, but it’s only one of many such emotions. Resentment, anger, and grief are other emotions that caregivers feel.
You might feel resentment at all of the changes in your life – anger from feeling helpless to stop your parent’s diminishing health and grief over the loss of balance in the relationship.
You’ve gone from child to parent. Many caregivers feel guilty for having these emotions, but need to know that they’re a normal response to a difficult circumstance. Caring for an elderly parent can often introduce chaos into what was once an orderly, peaceful lifestyle.
The demands and pressures can mount on a daily basis as your loved ones continues to decline. It’s a responsibility of gigantic proportions and there must be a way for the caregiver to relieve stress or it will lead to burnout.
Taking care of a parent is an unfamiliar sea and since there’s often no land in sight, a caregiver can feel like the burden is endless. It doesn’t matter how close you are to your parent and it’s not about love – the strain that taking care of another person’s personal and medical needs can feel like a two-ton block pressing you down.
If you add children to that responsibility, that block suddenly gets much heavier. Depression is common in caretakers and the signs include fatigue, insomnia and mounting frustration.
The depression happens because all too often a caregiver will put the needs and concerns of his or her parent first. The caregiver will often neglect his own health (skipping meals, canceling social outings) in order to be able to be there for their aging parent.
This is a huge mistake, and in the long run can have consequences on your mental, emotional and physical health. If you are a caretaker, you must put yourself first. You have to find a way to make sure that you get your needs met – and you especially need time off alone.
You need to do something that relaxes you and doesn’t demand any of your physical or mental resources. If you don’t have anyone in your family that can step in and give you a break, then hire someone – but take that break.
Be sure that you deal with whatever you’re feeling about the situation. It’s okay to feel what you feel. Emotions are just your personal feelings and shouldn’t be labeled as bad or good. They simply are what you feel in a given moment. Don’t be too hard on yourself emotionally.
Find a support group that you can share the emotional and mental burden of being a caregiver with. You’d be surprised at how much stress can be lightened by belonging to a group that knows what you’re going through. Get plenty of rest. Not getting enough sleep only makes a difficult circumstance feel much worse.