“They” say I’m in the “sandwich generation,” the generation taking care of both our children at home and our aging parents. But “sandwich generation” does not paint a realistic picture for me. When I think of a sandwich, I think of a Dagwood type sandwich with fluffy bread piled high with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and condiments; it is beautiful to behold and the person holding it has a huge smile. I feel more like a panini, pressed flat, oozing out, with “grill marks” on my face as I strive to “balance” parenting my teenagers and my 80 something Mom and Dad.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how blessed I am to still have my parents; many friends lost their mom or dad, or both, way too young and would give anything to have more time with them. But being thankful doesn’t make being “panini pressed” any easier. I know I’m not alone in this journey; I have other friends who are walking this road with me and it is a gift to laugh with them and to cry with them. I can also look at statistics and see that I’m not alone. According to Family Caregiver Alliance, roughly 66% of caregivers are female and the average caregiver is 49, married, employed and caring for her mom. The caregiver may have to make adjustments to her employment to be able to provide the needed care; she may move to part-time status, pass up a promotion, or quit. Of course, these changes in employment have financial implications for the caregiver such as lower earned income and retirement savings. There are health consequences for the caregiver, too, in the form of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, reduced immune system, and higher consumption of chocolate. That last part is purely anecdotal, but I’m pretty sure it’s on point!
So, rather than just sit around and eat more chocolate, here are some ideas to reduce caregiver stress:
- As author Kari Kampakis wrote, now is a time you need your friends more than ever. You may not think you have time to get together with friends, but these relationships are critical to your mental health. You need friends who know you well enough to see a need and step in and meet it without you even having to ask. Shout out to my friend Greta for bringing my favorite drink and dark chocolate while I was waiting in the ER with my Dad! And shout out to my husband for helping me maintain sanity by going above and beyond what most sons-in-law would do, most recently by making sure my parents’ elderly Dachshund, Sadie, got food, water and bathroom breaks during the last hospitalization.
- Take care of yourself because, if you go down, everything else goes down with you! Breathe. Get annual check-ups with your doctors. Take a walk outside. Laugh – really, take 3 minutes and watch the video in that link and then share it with someone else who needs a laugh!
- Get a financial plan to reduce money stress. A financial plan will help you clarify your goals and outline the steps needed to accomplish them. This clear plan of action will help you feel in control of your finances. And isn’t it nice to feel in control of something?!
- Maintain a sense of gratitude. This season will not last forever, and there are benefits to being a caregiver. You may deepen your relationship with family, get a sense of giving back to a loved one who has cared for you, or be mindful that you are modeling to your children how to care for you one day. Because apparently this aging thing happens to all of us…
- Keep the faith and keep putting on your big girl panties. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Whether you feel like a panini or a Dagwood, your Bridgeworth advisor can help you develop a financial plan to reduce stress and connect you to other resources to help you care for your loved one. We can also provide chocolate in your time of need!
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