If you’re assisting your parents due to a physical or cognitive decline while trying to manage your own family, welcome to the sandwich generation club! Not a stress free place to be, but one that more and more Canadians are entering into.
by Vera Orsini
“Sometimes I get scared when I forget things,” my 69 year old mother said to me one day. Any little ‘hiccup’ in her brain, and she worries. Thankfully, she did go to see her doctor. She does not have dementia, and her hiccups are a normal part of aging. Right now my parents don’t need help, which is a good thing as they are two provinces away. However, as the senior population grows and outnumbers the younger generations, I wonder – how women out there are trying to balance their children, work, spouses, and suddenly parents that need help?
I’ve only been in the field a short time, but already I can see the stress that many women are experiencing. I’ve also seen children who are wondering what ever happened to their once independent grandparents. They don’t understand why mom is running to help grandma with an errand instead of staying home with them.
Through research and talking with other professionals in the field, I came up with a few tips I thought might help. As always, talk to an accredited professional before following advice. They can steer you in the right direction with advice that is more relevant to your specific needs.
1. Talk with your parents. See what their wants are. See what their needs are. If they allow you into a doctor’s office with them, ask questions. Sometimes to understand what is necessary, you need proper information from a professional.
2. Allow your parents to stay as independent as possible. Let your parents make decisions for themselves – don’t try to do it all.
3. Be honest with your children. Let them know, in language they can understand, what is happening to their grandparents. Get them involved. It could be as little as going on a grocery shopping trip to see why grandma or grandpa needs assistance. This may take away from the fear and uncertainty they may be experiencing. Check in with them. Ask if there are any questions they may have and allow them to channel their frustrations in an appropriate manner. Involving children allows them the understanding of aging, and with knowledge, hopefully will see aging as a normal part of life.
4. Support from your spouse/partner, family and friends is key. Have a support system in place that will allow you to decompress, have people share or take over the responsibilities. Such support will help you balance your life and responsibilities.
5. Look for community services in your area. There may be local services your parents can access. Use respite services when needed. There are caregiver support groups- see if your area has one. If not, maybe this would be a good time to start one up in your neighbourhood.
6. Don’t forget self care. I am such a big believer in self care. Caregiver stress is real. Caregiver stress has broken marriages, settled people into depression, illnesses and so much more. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot help anyone else. From personal experience I can tell you that you will become run down. Caregiver support groups allow you to be with those who share the experience and understand what you may be going through. Self care could be going out with a friend for a walk. Self care could be revelling in alone time. Whatever you decide, do what’s best for you.
Vera Orsini is a mom of one funny amazing 8 year old daughter, and wife of one funny amazing man. With their blessing, she went back to school and completed the Social Service Worker Gerontology program full time. While it was difficult studying at night plus managing a family, she never looked back. She feels blessed to do what she does for a living and tries to spread the word about senior issues that are relevant to the family. She has recently become a registered Social Service Worker.