Multi-generational Caregiving

Caring for a parent, child and yourself

If you’re caring for both a parent and a child, you’re part of a growing trend called the “sandwich generation.”

Just like the name implies, this role “sandwiches” you in between the needs of your parents and the needs of your kids. And if you’re not careful, it can leave you feeling spread pretty thin.

The biggest challenge multi-generational caregivers have to deal with is the feeling that by caring for one group you’re neglecting the needs of the other. This can be especially difficult if your children are younger and still require your attention and help with basic activities.

But there are ways to make it easier for you to juggle all of your responsibilities without letting them overwhelm you.

  • Simplify your life – Make a list of all your responsibilities and activities to see what can be cut. Prioritize and delegate the rest.
  • Ask for help – Friends and family want to lighten your load – so let them! Whether someone wants to take over carpool duties, grocery shopping or organizing play dates, always take advantage of help when it’s offered. And don’t be timid about asking for help. School social workers and guidance counselors can also be a great resource for after school / summer educational programs that will keep your children happy and engaged.
  • Dedicate time to your children daily – Spending just 15 minutes a day with each of your children can help them feel loved and secure. If possible, plan longer outings once a month with each child; the one-on-one time will do wonders for both you and them.
  • Involve your children in the care plan – Use age-appropriate language to explain your parent’s illness, and encourage your children to ask questions. But don’t make promises that everything will be okay if it may not be. Honor your children’s trust in you by always being honest.
  • Schedule your way to sanity – A predictable schedule and routine gives you – and your children – one less thing to worry about. The more structure you can put into place in your home, the easier the caregiver transition will be for everyone.
  • Nurture the relationship between your parent and child – Every child can contribute to your parent’s caregiving, whether it’s bringing grandma a glass of juice or driving grandpa to doctor’s appointments. Encourage them to be part of your caregiving, but don’t force them. Let it be their decision to help.
  • Spend time with your spouse – It’s easy to get caught up in the needs of your parent and children and forget one other person – your spouse. Remember to take time to focus on your relationship, whether it’s an evening walk around the neighborhood, a night out for the two of you or sharing your day before bedtime.