In the morning, you wake up your school-aged children and your elderly parents and fix everyone breakfast. After preparing your kids’ lunches and driving them to school, you take your 80-year-old mom to the doctor for an appointment before heading to the office for a half day of work.
In the afternoon you pick up your kids, drive them to soccer practice and keep a close eye on your 85-year-old dad in the kitchen — he was recently diagnosed with dementia and while you are happy he wants to make his own cup of coffee, last week he forgot to turn off the stove.
If this sounds all too familiar, please know that you are not alone. About 1 in 7 middle-aged adults is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. Dubbed the “Sandwich Generation” you are caring for elderly parents or other relatives and kids, all in your own home. In addition to financial support, you may feel like you are being run ragged with all of the emotional and physical care you give 24/7.
While balancing the needs of children and aging parents can be challenging, fortunately, it is not impossible. For example, the following tips can help you survive to be a hard-working member of the Sandwich Generation:
Review your Health Insurance:
Providing for the multiple generations who share your home is pricey enough; you definitely don’t want to overpay for health insurance if you can possibly find a better plan. Review your current plan and research a number of health insurance quotes. You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are ways to save money by having multiple family members under the same plan.
Let go of the Guilt:
Taking care of young kids and elderly parents — as well as your spouse, your home, your job, pets and hopefully yourself — can make you feel like you have a bunch of unhappy bosses. This can lead to guilt, which is a pretty useless albeit common emotion. Tell yourself every single day — multiple times if you have to — that everything you are doing is important, and that it counts. Identify areas where you could ask for help — for instance, if the budget allows it, maybe you could hire a housekeeper to come in and tackle the bathrooms every week or so — and if your kids are old enough, ask for their assistance with some chores around the house or simple meal preparation. Then, if you can, let the rest go and give yourself a much-needed pat on the back.
It is impossible to care for others when your own proverbial gas tank is running on fumes. While you may feel like there isn’t time for you to grab that walk before dinner, take a warm bubble bath or head out for coffee with girlfriends, please do. This self-care can come in many forms, and also includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, getting out for some fresh air and scheduling your own important checkups like mammograms and well-woman visits. Also, make a habit of prioritizing your massive to-do list. Remember, there are 24 hours in one day and only one you — these numbers won’t change, but perhaps your list can be pared down a bit.
You can get Through this!
Being a member of the Sandwich Generation is definitely challenging, but it is not impossible. By taking the time to review important policies like health insurance, you can rest assured that you are getting the best and most budget-friendly plan for your large family. Then, make time to get out and have fun and ask for help when needed. All of this combined can make each day seem easier and less stressful, which is definitely a good thing.
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