Back to School Tips for “Sandwich Generation” Caregivers

Sending a child to college is bittersweet; pride swells alongside the pain of letting go. There’s so much to decide, plan, purchase, and pack. Helping a son or daughter select the right school and prepare for the move is a milestone not to be missed.

But what about Mom or Dad? While parents ready their college-bound child, who makes sure an aging family member eats right and takes their medications?

Welcome to the Sandwich Generation of caregivers. Perhaps you’re a member and didn’t know it! Sandwich Generation caregivers are people over the age of 40 who simultaneously support their own children while caring for an aging family member.

When they’re not raising kids or working, they spend dozens of hours each week picking up prescriptions, running errands, calling doctors, driving to appointments, researching care options, making sure medications are taken, doing laundry, preparing meals – and worrying.

Add to those financial obligations such as tuition, mortgage payments, home health services and saving for their own retirement, and – as you might imagine – sandwich caregivers are often overwhelmed, overworked and just plain exhausted.

Sound familiar? Fortunately, you have options for maximizing your time with your child – while also caring for aging parent.

Delegate- Hold weekly family meetings and make a checklist. Include caregiving and college-related tasks. Divvy up the must-dos and hang the list for all to see. Keep others accountable to avoid heaping all caregiving responsibilities on one person’s shoulders – namely yours.

Ask for help- You can’t do it all. Know your limits. Setting boundaries with your parent, spouse, siblings and older children is crucial. Consider outside assistance when possible – the resources are endless. Financial planners or accountants can help manage your budget and set goals. JFCS offers caregiver support groups. Sharing feelings with others in the same boat helps manage stress and keep you connected.

JFCS also offers short-term respite care which is a great way to hit pause for a few days while Mom or Dad receive the care they need. Additionally, respite care is a great option if you have to travel for longer periods of time. We also offer in home non-medical care with trained aides which can help with personal care and grooming, meal planning and preparation, socialization and activities, and light housekeeping. Our Passport Around Louisville Service (PALS) provides low-cost transportation for seniors to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and community events.  This can help to take some of the pressure off if Mom or Dad need to get to their appointments but you are at work with a meeting.

Create a budget- Supporting a child in college while providing long-term care to an aging family member can easily break a family’s budget. Determine monthly expenses and how to cover them within your means. Adjust your budget regularly. Encourage your children to stick to a budget, too. A part-time job can help them pay for basic living expenses while teaching the value of a dollar earned versus given. If they qualify for a work-study or on-campus job, they may not need a car – saving them a lot of money.

Also, it’s common for children today to move back in with their parents after college graduation. Setting financial boundaries such as charging rent can help manage a multigenerational household budget. JFCS’ Career Quest program for recent graduates can help your child find meaningful employment while they are living at home.

Take care of yourself first- It’s hard to care for others when you are not caring for yourself. Avoid burnout by eating right, exercising and getting plenty of rest. Listen to your body and mind. When you need a break, ask family members for a hand.

It’s OK to laugh- Guilt, frustration, and anger are normal feelings for caregivers. Recognize them, forgive yourself and let them go. Find ways to stay positive and lighten up whenever possible. Watch a silly movie or chat with a funny friend. Humor is one of life’s best stress relievers.

Whether you are a seasoned Sandwich Generation caregiver or know you’ll be one in a few years, keep these tips in mind to help find balance while caring for yourself and those you love most. JFCS is here to help you launch your college-bound student into their future while helping your parents age in place gracefully.  Call us today for more information on our senior services and our career and educational services.

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