Sandwiched in the Middle: National Caregivers Day

National Caregivers Day is observed on the third Friday in February. It intends to honor individuals who provide physical, personal, or social emotional support of older adults. Being a caregiver requires an element of sacrifice a mother knows well. And with that, caregivers are not limited to health sector careers.

There are many types, ranging from long-term care caregiver, to special needs caregiver, to private duty caregiver. Some are not always paid, though; some caregivers are sandwiched in the middle. Some caregivers are family members, just your average moms or dads who put down their babies at night, then hit the road to check on their own aging parents.

Caregiving + The Sandwich Generation

Have you ever heard of “the sandwich generation”? It refers to mid-aged individuals who are pressured to support both their aging parents and their growing children. Many moms and dads are navigating the balancing act of caring for both simultaneously–kind of like being “sandwiched” in the middle. This means that they have an obligation of caring for their parents (who may now be unable to perform various tasks, or might be in need of physical and mental support) as well as their children (who require much of the same).

According to the Administration for Community Living, 27% of caregivers provide support services to both a child AND their parents. On National Caregivers Day, I think of the many moms and dads burning out while navigating this daunting task. At Detroit Mom, we can relate.  

How to Avoid Caregiver Burn Out

Parenting burn out is REAL and we know it. Caregiver burn out is much the same, and it is necessary to avoid. The dual responsibility of sandwich caregiving can be overwhelming, but with thoughtful strategies and support systems in place, it is possible to navigate both successfully and avoid burn out.

Adaptability is Key

Embrace the ever-changing demand of caregiving. On one end the needs will decrease and on the other end of the generational spectrum, they will increase. Both will demand support and how you are able to mentally, financially, and emotionally support them will ebb and flow. The demands of your aging children and parents will change drastically, simultaneously, forever more. Adaptability is a highly needed skill when being a caregiver in the middle. 

Delegate Caregiving Responsibilities

The first stop when delegating caregiving tasks should be other family members, but we all have different situations and we definitely cannot generally outsource our children (can we?!). If no one related to you lives nearby, it’s okay to reach out to close friends or neighbors. Find a community and you may be surprised by how many people you know are willing to help offer a meal or a ride.

Lastly, if it’s right for your family, empower your children to help with certain aspects of caregiving. This will not only ease your load, but it will also help instill a sense of responsibility within them.

Open Communication for All

Don’t go through it alone. Advocate for yourself. Be transparent. Share the load where you can. Use technology to enhance routines and build trust. Never hesitate to communicate to shared caregivers of children (educational faculty, teachers, coaches, co-parents, therapists) if you are in a dual caregiver or special needs caregiver situation. Let them know if there is any way they can support you or your children.

Seek External Caregiver Support

Tap into local community resources and support groups. It takes a strong, organized person to ask for help and delegate tasks. But you do not have to do it alone. Seek out your local senior centers, placement agencies, and local municipalities, as they can generally find great support groups. Locally, you could seek out resources and institutions such as an area agency on aging.

Here in Detroit, try the Detroit Area on Aging for solutions for seniors. For youngsters, seek out communities like Detroit Mom for support systems, advice, and friendship.

Self-Care Matters when Caregiving

Maintain your physical and emotional well-being. Take breaks. Remember that taking care of yourself is a necessity. Schedule regular breaks. Make sure to seek out friendship. If you are baring the burden of managing a caregiver role in the middle, tending to your own needs might be the last thing you have in mind. But it’s back to the basics: have you eaten, bathed, or seen the sun today? You should be confidently serving the body and soul that so freely serves those around you. Self-care truly matters when caregiving.

As we celebrate caregivers, please recognize the importance of community support, open communication, and self-care in navigating the unique challenges of the sandwich generation and of those of all ages contributing to the care of others. It is often a thankless job. There are a a lot of hard working, good people who are keeping humanity running.

Happy National Caregivers Day to all of the unsung heroes who keep our families, communities, and the aging healthy and thriving!

Caregiving doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own. Charmaine shares
three ways to work towards avoiding caregiver burn out.


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