Managing stress as a sandwich generation caregiver
By Jenna M. Bogetti, LMHC Jul 01, 2022 • 4 min
Caring for family members is often one of the toughest and most overlooked jobs you can have. Without adequate support, people can feel overwhelmed mentally, physically and financially. Balancing the care of both children and parents often leaves little to no time to take care of yourself. Juggling these duties can be difficult, but there are some things that can make this role less stressful and easier to navigate.
What is the "sandwich generation"?
The sandwich generation refers to adults who are sandwiched by dual caregiving roles: raising young children while also caring for aging parents or another family member. This scenario is on the rise due to an increase in life expectancy and more people having children later in life. While this job can often be stressful, it can also be rewarding. Through planning and support, dual caregiving can become more manageable.
Stressors for sandwich generation caregivers
Taking care of both young and older family members can be emotionally challenging. The situation can impact your life in other ways as well. These may include:
- Difficulty managing time with children and caregiving roles
- Disagreements with other family members over issues such as sharing responsibilities and financial concerns
- Feelings of resentment or guilt and anticipatory grief for aging parents
- Lack of personal time or ability to engage in self-care
- Trouble expressing thoughts due to feelings of guilt or obligation toward loved ones
Professional and financial stress
- Difficulty managing care and work schedules, which may impact work performance
- Difficulty saving for retirement due to the financial burden of juggling children and caregiving duties
- Deficiency in public policies and support from the government in managing elder care and childcare
- Lack of paid leave and benefits in the workplace
Tips for managing stress
While it may seem overwhelming to manage these responsibilities, there are many steps you can take to help offset some of the stressors that may arise. Consider the following:
- Ask for help from other family members
- Be honest about how you feel
- Communicate needs and boundaries
- Gain support by talking about how you feel with others, such as friends, caregiver support group members or a therapist
- Delegate tasks to other family members whenever possible
- Prioritize tasks
- Say "no" when you can or need to due to exhaustion or stress
- Access professional support; resources like individual or group therapy may be helpful
- Make the time for adequate sleep and adopt a healthy diet
- Manage your own physical health by seeing your healthcare provider for regular checkups and screenings
- Learn to manage stress and identify triggers
- Take short breaks by going on walks, taking deep breaths and keeping in contact with your friends and others who can offer support
- Tend to your own needs, and be realistic about your capabilities and limitations
Dual caregiving roles can be exhausting—physically and mentally. While it may be overwhelming to care for both children and elderly parents, be realistic about your needs and the needs of your family to help you manage these stressors. It's important to ask for help, set boundaries and take care of your own needs in order to be a productive caregiver to your children, your parents and also yourself.
Published June 2022.