Do you feel like you are being “sandwiched” as a caregiver? Do these stories sound familiar?
Andy has to pick up his aunt B’s prescriptions on his way into the office, but the school bus is late to pick up his son this morning and he can’t be late to the monthly budget meeting.
Olivia spent a good part of the weekend cooking for her parents and cleaning their house, so she didn’t really have time to get her laundry done and her son needs a clean uniform for basketball, yet she’s got to go interview witnesses to a crime all day. There just aren’t enough hours in the weekend.
If these examples feel familiar, you are being “sandwiched.” “Sandwich generation” is a term that traditionally refers to people, often in their forties or fifties, responsible for bringing up their own children and for the care of aging parents or relatives. Recently, however, people are living longer and more and more grandparents are providing significant care for grandchildren, so the “sandwich” can be multi-layer, like a Dagwood.
While families should take pride and joy in the ways that they support each other across the generations, sometimes it can all feel like too much. When do you ask for respite or just say no?
Of course, everyone is different. But just like other stressors, caring for those that we love can lead to burnout. Mental health experts suggest that you make time for self-care. Incorporating small things into your daily routine like meditation and exercise can help reduce the stress overload.
If carving out “me time” sounds overwhelming and exhausting, it is probably time to ask for help and seek respite care. If your career and livelihood are suffering as a result of your caregiving, that is another sign that you are taking on too much. No one wants their caregiver to suffer as a result of caring for them.
How can you get help caring for an older relative? Look to your community- neighbors, school, your place of worship, clubs and sporting teams that or your loved ones belong to can help organize to support you and your loved ones. Websites such as lotsahelpinghands.com and mealtrain.com can help the community coordinate its support.
If you are providing significant care for an older adult, you probably want to have a caregiver agreement. A caregiver agreement, which should be drafted by an attorney that focuses in asset protection and Medicaid planning, will spell out your compensation for the care you provide.
Compensation? For taking care of Mom? Yes. If an older adult is no longer able to stay at home or in your home, or when they pass, a record of what was spent and why spelled out in a caregiver agreement will make any financial review related to nursing home care or estate matters with other family members clearer.
Medicaid penalizes older adults for “improper transfers” and if the older adult is giving a caregiver money to buy groceries or pay other bills, good records can avoid penalties. Additionally, an older adult MAY pay their family member caregivers and doing so is often a good strategy. Siblings that do not provide care for Mom or Dad often have little idea of how much time and energy is spent providing that care- we find that a caregiver agreement helps the caregiving children to keep better records of both their time and the expenses associated with caregiving.
Hire a housekeeper to deep clean once a month. Utilize adult day care centers, home health aides and medical rides to get to appointments that are provided by some insurers and municipalities. But realize that you and the older adult you are caring for might have to make some tough decisions down the road. Have the difficult conversations now, they only get more difficult as time passes.