For the past 6 months you’ve been caring for your elderly mother while also working full time and raising two school-aged kids. But lately, nothing seems to be going right. No matter how hard you try, mom’s health just seems to get worse. Your boss yelled at you again yesterday for being late, and your children and spouse keep complaining that you’re neglecting them. What should you do? As a member of the Sandwich Generation, trying to balance caregiving with a job and household can be overwhelming. However, it is possible when you take this approach.
Accept Your Limitations
There’s only one of you, and you’re only human. Accept what you can do and know your limitations. If you start getting burned out, you won’t be any good to your mother, employer or kids. When you begin feeling tired and frazzled all the time, take a break from caregiving by:
- Asking your siblings or other family members to pitch in.
- Hiring a respite caregiver from a licensed home care agency.
- Taking advantage of senior resources in your community, like adult daycare, meal services and transportation.
It’s important to also remember that no matter how hard you try mom’s health is probably going to keep declining. And, that’s not a reflection upon you.
Your spouse and children need to come first. With that in mind, prioritize your personal, family and work activities. If your boss is breathing down your neck about a long overdue budget report, sit down with them and explain what’s been going on. He or she may even be in the same situation, and most reasonable people know what it takes to care for an elderly adult.
Take Care of Yourself
If you keep getting sick because your body’s rundown, it’s trying to tell you something. Here are some effective ways to stay refreshed as the days go by:
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep 7 to 8 hours per day
- Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet
- Get a complete physical every year from your doctor
- Spend quality time alone with your kids and spouse
Tell Your Family the Truth
Sit down with your spouse and kids and honestly share how you feel. Let them all know how much you love them, and that you appreciate their patience. But at the same time, your family needs to know how much care mom needs right now, and why. If your kids are old enough, ask them to assist with grandma’s care – which will probably lift her spirits too!
Talk to Your Employer
If money isn’t an issue, your job should be a lower priority. But if finances are tight, you’ll have to rethink those priorities. In either case, schedule a time to sit down with your immediate supervisor or the company’s owner. Let them know how hard it is to “wear many hats”, and how important keeping your job is to you. Again, you may find out that you’re “preaching to the choir” if they also have an aging parent.
Here are some temporary work options to explore with your boss so you can keep your job:
- Job sharing, flex time or just easing back to part time
- Separating your caregiving duties from work obligations as much as possible. For example, agree to only make phone calls related to mom’s care during lunch breaks.
- Learn about company resources, like an Employee Assistance Program, that govern caregiving, family leave and flexible worktime policies.
If you need the income and it looks like your job may be in jeopardy, consider hiring a professional respite caregiver to help you balance caregiving with your other responsibilities, at least until other solutions present themselves.