Caring for aging parents and children at the same time – a phenomenon that has given rise to the sandwich generation – can be cause for a great deal of caregiver stress. Though it may not be easy, there are steps you can take to alleviate your stress and make the task of caring for two groups of people more manageable.
Ten tips to alleviate caregiver stress in the sandwich generation
1. Focus on your own retirement
It's easy to put yourself last when raising or caring for children, as well as providing for seniors. However, if you don't prepare for your own retirement, you may put your children in a similar position. Be sure to think ahead so that you (and your spouse) are prepared for your retirement years.
2. Make adult children contribute
If your children are adults and still live at home, consider having them contribute in some way to alleviate your stress and financial burden. Not only will it teach your adult children the value of responsibility (and prepare them for the rigors of being independent), but will help reduce your burden as well.
3. Involve your siblings, if possible
You shouldn't have to shoulder the responsibilities of caring for children and parents alone. If you have siblings, enlist their help. If your parents are active aging adults, then consider taking on their care in shifts.
4. Keep an emergency savings fund
When caring for both children and adults, it's important that you are prepared financially for almost any eventuality. Though it may seem daunting to do so, you should have at least three months worth of expenses saved up. If you haven't yet done so, set out a plan and make it happen.
5. Be proactive in your approach
Part of putting aside an emergency fund is being proactive. Take steps to both set and accomplish goals. If you know that certain responsibilities are forthcoming – such as a medical expense for your loved one or a school expense for your son or daughter – prepare in advance.
6. Consult your tax adviser
If you don't have a tax adviser, you may want to consider getting one. Claiming adult children or your parents as dependents can have a significant impact on your tax deductions. There are a multitude of deductions that may apply to you (or you and your spouse) – speak with an expert about them.
7. Don't forget to care for yourself
It can be easy to get burned out when you forget to put yourself first. Your parents and children need you, but you can't care for them if you yourself need to be cared for. Don't become overwhelmed – remain fit and healthy, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
8. But don't spend frivolously either
Putting yourself first does not mean that you should be spending money in a frivolous manner. Be conservative with your funds; doing so will not only help you put money aside for an emergency fund, as discussed above, but will help ensure you have money on hand for daily needs too.
9. Seek assistance from your employer
Your employer may be willing to provide you with family leave time or a flexible schedule, both of which could prove a great benefit. Talk to your employer, explain your situation, and seek a compromise that works for both parties.
10. Spend quality time with family
Sandwich generation stress is not like normal stress. The responsibilities of caring for both children and parents can be tremendous, and can cause mental, financial, and physical turmoil. Don't forget what it's all for – your family. Spend time with your loved ones and put what's most important first.
In addition to the above ten steps, investing in a medical alert device or an easy-to-use phone can be another way to help manage sandwich generation stress by keeping family members connected, and can help alleviate stress from worrying about a loved one’s health and safety.