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Balancing Act: Caring for Your Kids and Your Parents

Six helpful tips for “sandwich generation” caregivers.

mom and daughter at table talking

Many parents are used to juggling their children’s hectic schedules. But what happens when another ball is thrown into the mix — the responsibility of caring for aging parents?

More and more middle-aged Americans find themselves in this position. They’re sandwiched between caring for their children and caring for their parents. If you’re in this situation and feel stressed or overwhelmed, take heart. In fact, there is a new commonly used term for people in this situation— “the sandwich generation.”

Here are six ways to find balance and make the most of your time:

  1. Get organized. Make a master calendar. Use it to keep track of your own appointments, your kids’ schedules and your parents’ doctor visits. Include other reminders, like when to order more medical supplies or prescriptions. The National Caregivers Library online has many useful forms that can help you organize your family’s important documents.

  2. Overcome the distance. Living far apart makes it hard to keep tabs on aging parents. It may be easier to relocate them closer to where you live or even into your own home. If that’s not possible, use your visits to set up a local support network you can tap into when they need extra help.  There are caregivers available that are paid to care for your parents if they don’t want to relocate or you cannot accommodate their special needs. Note that these services would be paid for out-of-pocket as they are not covered by most insurance companies.

  3. Stay informed about parents’ health. That will make it easier for you to make decisions and set priorities for their care. Make a point of knowing their doctors and ask to be kept informed about their conditions — by phone, if you’re not in the area. Due to new health privacy laws, you will have to get your parent’s permission and sign a release of information form. These should be available at your doctor’s office.

    Try to learn as much as you can about the health care of the people you’re caring for. However, be sure to ask the doctor for reliable sources of information, too. Also, make sure your parents have up-to-date advance directives such as a living will and medical power of attorney, so you know their medical wishes. If they live in a different state part of the year, be sure they have an advance directive or medical power of attorney that is appropriate for that state.

  4. Ask for help when you need it. You don’t need to do everything yourself. Ask your relatives and friends for help when you need it. Many times your loved ones want to help, but they may not know how. Start the conversation by telling them what you could use their help with.

  5. Find respite care. Specialized adult day care centers are an option when you don’t want to miss your child’s soccer game. Many offer transportation and have skilled nursing staff to give medicines and monitor mealtimes. You could also hire a home health nurse or aide to take over your duties a few times a week.

  6. Take care of yourself. It’s important to stay in control of your own life while looking after loved ones. Eat well and exercise to stay energized and healthy. Don’t neglect your own pursuits and interests, either. Do things you enjoy and take time to relax and de-stress daily. Also make time to visit regularly with friends and other loved ones. Be sure you continue to socialize with friends and don’t become isolated.

Remember, as a member of the sandwich generation, you’re not alone. You have a lot in common with many other caregivers your age. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.

By Amanda Genge, Contributing Writer

ARCH: National Respite Network and Resource Center. The ABCs of respite: A consumer’s guide for family caregivers. Accessed: September 2, 2016.
National Institute on Aging. So far away: Twenty questions and answers about long-distance caregiving. Accessed: September 2, 2016.
National Caregivers Library. The sandwich generation. Accessed: September 1, 2016.

Last Updated: September 2, 2016