Mastering the Middle: Help for the Sandwich Generation Caregivers
If you’re a woman caring for both your children and your aging parents, you are part of what’s called the sandwich generation — and probably feeling some pressure. Members of the sandwich generation may wonder how they can best help the people they care for while taking care of themselves. To find out, Discover Rush spoke with Vanessa Fabbre, MSW, coordinator of older adult programs and the Anne Byron Waud Patient and Family Resource Center at Rush University Medical Center.
Q: When you’re pulled in different directions, how do you meet everyone’s needs?
A: It’s OK to set priorities and sometimes say, “No.” Women often feel relieved when they are applauded for setting limits and admitting they cannot do everything on their own. This might mean asking for help caring for your parents so that you can attend to children and personal relationships. You can ask for professional help with Mom or Dad in the mornings if it’s really important that you take your children to school. It’s a good idea to keep a list of emergency respite care services for older parents so that you never have to miss school meetings or caring for a sick child.
Q: How do you recognize your limits and juggle multiple responsibilities?
A: It’s important to be realistic. That often involves re-examining your notions of what is reasonable to expect from yourself and being flexible. Often I’ve heard women say, “I promised my mom we wouldn’t put her in a nursing home.” What’s important is the sentiment behind the promise. Maybe it’s not so much about the nursing home as it is a promise that she won’t be abandoned. Sometimes a nursing home is a better thing for an older parent who is frail and needs constant medical attention. You can explain to your mom why you think that is the best option, but make it clear that you will visit and be there for her. Maybe a nursing home isn’t the only option. Perhaps an assisted-living facility is a possibility. There are many ways to care for your parents. Just knowing there are options can be freeing.
Q: When does a caregiving situation become more than a person can handle?
A: A big red flag is depression. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, you’re feeling down and you’re no longer enjoying things you used to enjoy, you have the warning signs of depression. When responsibilities feel like burdens, it’s time to reach out for help — for dealing with both your own feelings and your caregiving situation. The Waud Resource Center can be a great first call. We offer free consultations and support services, as well as counseling. We can help facilitate family meetings, get a geriatric assessment for your parents and communicate with your child’s school about what is going on at home. We also try to ensure that caregivers take care of their own health by getting recommended screenings and staying up-to-date with primary care.
Q: Is it hard to ask for help?
A: Often women will be reluctant to ask even siblings for help. You might think that caring for a parent is your responsibility or assume siblings are too busy to help, when actually they’re willing to. You have to ask. Usually, people have a unique contribution they’d like to make. One person might take care of your parents’ finances, while another might take your child to medical appointments. No one person has to do everything.
You Are Not Alone
Free information on a wide range of topics related to healthy aging and caregiving is also available at the Waud Resource Center. Friendly, knowledgeable staff can answer your questions about memory loss, nursing home care, talking with your parents about their health and independence, and many other topics.
For more information on the resources available, call (800) 755-4411. To learn about Rush Generations, a free health and aging membership program for older adults and those caring for them, call (800) 757-0202 or visit the Waud Resource Center online.
Health Services for Older Adults at
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago
Rush University Medical Center offers comprehensive health care services for older adults and their loved ones.
- For information on medical services for older adults, visit the Geriatric Services home page. Or call (800) 757-0202.
- To learn more about our a free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them, visit the Rush Generations home page. Or call (800) 757-0202. Rush Generations can help you with your goals for vital, healthy living.
- Are you facing tough decisions as you or a loved one grow older? The Anne Byron Waud Patient and Family Resource Center for Healthy Aging offers help with your current needs and difficult questions. For more information, see their home page www.rush.edu/WaudCenter or phone (312) 563-2700 or (800) 755-4411.
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