Coping tips for Sandwich Generation caregivers

Extended family walking on wooded path
Posted 28 June 2020 by Fallon Health

by Sheila Despres

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, some people have been unexpectedly thrust into a “sandwich generation” caregiver role—caring for their kids as well as older loved ones. Others who have been sandwich generation caregivers all along are more accustomed to hectic schedules and overcoming obstacles but may now have additional barriers to providing care effectively.

In either case, reinforcing basic guidelines of caregiving can best position your loved ones, and you, to navigate the current pandemic.

Consider the following tips to help you effectively manage caregiving for older and younger loved ones, while maintaining your own physical and mental well-being:

  1. Adopt a team-based mentality

    As a caregiver, you may be used to providing care to your loved ones without much help. Right now, everyone needs help.

    Make a list of caregiving tasks you need help with. For instance, other people in your household may be able to tackle responsibilities such as housekeeping, grocery shopping or picking up medication from the pharmacy.

    Can anyone at home watch the kids for a couple hours? Could you arrange for a friend or relative outside your home to video chat with your loved ones?

    Consider ways for others to help in a temporary caregiver role.

  2. Talk to your employer

    If you have work responsibilities, schedule time with your manager or someone from human resources to talk about your situation. There may be resources available to help better balance your work and personal life. Talk to your Human Resources Department to see if an employee assistance program (EAP) is in place.

    Discuss arrangements that can help you get your job done, while being accessible to your loved ones.

    Don’t assume your workplace will not help. Now may be the best time to adjust your schedule so that it is flexible enough for everyone.

  3. Stay informed, but avoid too much news

    Avoiding talk about COVID-19 is nearly impossible. It can be confusing to determine what information you need to know and what you can afford to block out. Invest your time absorbing information wisely.

    Try to avoid having news on all day, even if it’s just in the background. If your loved one lives elsewhere, encourage them to do the same. Limit information intake from social media sources. Stick to information that comes from state officials on current social distancing rules and other public policy. Get your health information from the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization.

  4. Arrange to have remote services put in place

    Help is available.

    Lean on technology and professional services when you can. You and those you provide care for may be nervous about anyone coming to your house, so have a conversation about what services you are both comfortable getting help with.

    In some cases, social workers, in-home aides and other health professionals may be able to mobilize help. Call your loved one’s doctor to see what your options are. You may be able to receive instructions on how to help older loved ones with certain activities of daily living they may struggle to do themselves.

    Many health care providers are offering their services via telehealth, which can be a good way to ensure your loved ones get the care they need—before small health issues become larger problems. However, it’s important that your loved ones are seen for all urgent medical issues right away. If telehealth won’t address an urgent situation, take action to have your loved one get in-person care.

    Your loved one’s pharmacy may be able to deliver prescriptions during this crisis as well. And check with their health plan to see if mail order prescriptions are available.

    Delivery options may also be available when it comes to food. You can order groceries online through services such as Peapod, Instacart and Amazon Prime Whole Foods Market. Take out delivery is often available through Grubhub or DoorDash.

  5. Play together

    Technology is a great resource to use while staying safely apart.

    Video chatting is one way many have stayed in touch with each other. Finding games that your older and younger loved ones can play together is an added bonus. If your older loved ones are living elsewhere, consider games or activities that your loved ones can do together, but virtually:

    • A free downloadable option includes Houseparty—a video chat app that also has a handful of classic games that you can play remotely with loved ones

    • Charades can be played by simply having each “team” Google the search term “charade topics”

    • Consider an “Art of the Day” activity where everyone can draw, paint or sculpt creations that can be shared with each other later that day

    • If you use a video chat service that enables screen sharing of YouTube, consider searching songs in order to have a little karaoke fun

  6. Take time to tend to yourself
  7. In the best of times, healthy habits are crucial for caregivers. A time of crisis, such as the current pandemic, only amplifies that need for self-care.

    If someone in your household can share responsibilities, consider setting up a calendar that has time built in to allow you adequate time to step away, shower, go for a walk and/or decompress.

    A caregiver who is sick, overworked or burned out makes everyone’s situation that much more difficult.

Sheila Despres is Site Director for the Leominster, Massachusetts, location of Fallon Health’s Summit ElderCare program, which is a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Summit ElderCare provides medical care, insurance coverage, home assistance, adult day health services and social support to adults age 55+ so that they can remain living in their homes.

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