Caring for Children and Aging Parents

Today, many adults find themselves caught between meeting the demands of parenting children and teenagers and tending to aging or sick parents.  This group of adults is commonly referred to as “the sandwich generation”.  Currently in the United States, 44 percent of adults between 45 and 55 years of age have children under 21 and living parents.  The AARP reports that 22 million Americans are caring for parents or older relatives.   While care giving for an aging parent and children can present multiple financial and personal challenges and frustrations, there are steps you can take to make the situation less stressful and more productive.

Finding Balance amid the Chaos

For most people, being a parent, performing well at work, and maintaining a household is a juggling act.  Add to it caring for a sick or aging parent and it can become downright overwhelming.  Many caregivers report difficulty in finding time for themselves, managing stress, and balancing work and family responsibilities.  Consider the following suggestions for coping with a variety of demands from Mental Health America.

  • Strive for organization.  Make a list of things that need to be done, and set realistic priorities and goals.  Have a back-up plan in place at all times.
  • Maintain your health and well-being.  Exercise regularly, eat a healthful diet, and get an adequate amount of sleep.  Many people who are caring for others tend to overlook their own health.
  • Make time to do something you enjoy.  Relax with family and friends.  Having fun, laughing, and focusing on things other than your own problems helps you keep your emotional balance and makes you a much better caregiver.
  • Ask for help when you need it.  Everyone experiences times when they cannot manage to do everything that needs to be done.  Call on family members and friends to help with different tasks.
  • Take advantage of community resources such as adult day services, meal or shopping services, and caregiver support groups to help lighten your load.
  • If you feel depressed, angry or stressed, step away from the situation for a few minutes.  Take a short walk or simply leave the room.
  • Recognize that turning to alcohol or drugs is not an effective way to cope with stress and is likely to lead to additional stress and problems.  Turn to a trusted friend, relative or health professional.
  • Remember to thank you friends, family and co-workers for any help and support.  Try to return their favors if and when you can.