According to Pew Research Center, 47 percent of people in the U.S. have parents over the age of 65 and are raising a minor child or supporting a grown child.
This population is often referred to as the “sandwich generation,” which is the group of people in the nation who are actively parenting children, teens or adults in the home while also caring for aging parents.
These responsibilities can cause an overwhelming feeling of stress —trying to juggle daily tasks such as work, children’s school work and extra-curricular activities, errands and doctor appointments. And because of these responsibilities, the caregivers often neglect to take care of themselves and do not properly manage their stress.
It is a person’s right to take care of themselves, and caregivers need to focus on making time for themselves. Certain habits can help in taking care of yourself and managing stress, such as:
- Exercise, getting proper rest and eating healthy.
- Making time to get outside, listen to music, read or other hobbies that allow relaxation.
- Give yourself permission to see that your own needs are met and to do whatever is necessary to maintain your own health and well-being.
- Find a support network, such as a therapist, friend or support group, in whom you can confide.
- Find activities you can all do together as a family.
- Remind yourself of things you can control and things that are beyond control, and accept the things you cannot control.
- Recognize the power of grief in yourself and in your aging parent. Be kind and self-compassionate with yourself. Acknowledge changing roles and life transitions.
Focus on what matters to you, then realign your personal goals according to what matters to you. Ask yourself what is urgent and which activities fit with what matters to you. Eliminate the ones that don’t. Always remember that communication is key, and it is important to be open and honest with your family members.
For more information on managing the stress of raising children while also taking care of your aging parents, come to the free “Managing the Stress of the Sandwich Generation” workshop on Monday, August 3rd from 6-7 p.m. at Wesley Long Education Center, Classroom 1. To register, call (336)832-8000 or visit www.conehealth.com/classes.
Alexis Smith is a chaplain at Cone Health Cancer Center and Wesley Long Hospital. Smith received a Master of Divinity with a concentration in counseling from Houston Graduate School of Theology in 2003. She also recently received a Ph.D. in Applied Theology from the University of Chester in England.
Lisa Lundeen is a chaplain at Cone Health Cancer Center and Women’s Hospital. Lundeen received a Master of Divinity from Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana in 2006.
Both Smith and Lundeen completed two years of clinical pastoral education at Cone Health and are both employees of Cone Health’s Department for Spiritual Care and Wholeness.