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Sandwich Generation Moms

How to deal with stress when you're stuck in the middle, caring for aging parents and your own kids

It’s stressful to be a member of the Sandwich Generation. Moms in this category — women between the ages of 35 and 54 who are simultaneously caring for their children and their aging parents — 
report feeling more anxiety than any other age group, according to the American Psychological Association. This stress impacts all aspects of their lives, from relationships with their spouses 
and children to their emotional and physical well-being.

The Pew Research Center estimates that nearly half of adults will eventually find themselves caring for a parent 65 or older while raising a young child or supporting a grown child — with sandwiched mothers taking on the bulk of the load. Stress caused by this dual caregiving is caused by several factors: increased 
financial burden; feeling torn between the needs of parent and child; managing extra adult duties their parents used to handle themselves. 

No doubt, it’s an exhausting position to be in at times. Here are seven ways to help you reduce the stress associated with the demands of being a Sandwich Generation caregiver.

  1. Breathe. Take time to relax and step back. If you have to, schedule daily and weekly downtime. Determine what priorities really need to be handled and let some of the other stuff go.
  2. Get physical. A regular exercise routine can truly help reduce stress.
  3. Say “yes” to help — and don’t forget to ask for it! If you have siblings, be sure to include them in your parents’ care. Even those who live far away can take on tasks like online bill payment and spell you with regular Skype visits. Locally, reach out to social workers and those in your parents’ circle — fellow church or synagogue members, friends, former colleagues.
  4. Develop a care plan. Include your parents to ensure that you understand their care goals and priorities. Also involve your kids in the planning process and invite their input, particularly if they will be sacrificing time, activities and living space due to your caregiving responsibilities.
  5. Identify outside resources to help. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (click here and type in your zip code) for information on local caregiving services. Available relief can include anything from home health care, laundry and driving services to food preparation and delivery.
  6. If finances allow, consider retaining an elder care attorney. These specialists are experts in the laws, rights and benefits related to protecting the elderly. They can be a tremendous support, a wealth of information and very useful in helping to prepare for end-of-life care and considerations. Find a local lawyer through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
  7. Guard your relationships with your spouse and children. This is important. Family relationships can suffer greatly when children and spouses feel they are being ignored. Moms can also become overwhelmed with guilt from being torn away from their family in order to care for their parents. Be sure to make special time for your family and schedule periodic date nights with your spouse. 

Alexa Bigwarfe is the mother of three young children. She and her sisters share the responsibility of caring for their father and balancing their own family lives.

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