Families benefit when they can spend more time together. And, as caregiving shifts from parents to their adult children, this can be a rewarding experience. Being able to return the care our parents showed us can help strengthen relationships and afford us the chance to show how much we appreciate all that our parents did for us. Grandchildren also benefit from these close multigenerational connections. But caregiving can also create stress.
Social worker Dorothy Miller is credited with coining the phrase “sandwich generation” in 1981, which describes adult children who are the primary caregivers for their children and their aging parents. The Pew Research Center finds that 15 percent of adults are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. But it isn’t just the financial responsibilities that can be stressful.
As we strive to balance work, children’s activities and homework, volunteer responsibilities in our schools and communities, and meet the needs for our loved ones’ health and happiness, we can feel overwhelmed. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that caregivers face increased risks for depression and chronic illness and also report sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, ignoring their own preventive health care and even failing to care for themselves when ill.
WebMD warns that caregivers who neglect their own physical and psychological health run the risk of “caregiver burnout.” Without realistic expectations for the logistics of raising children, working and caring for a loved one – while being sure to care for one’s own self – caregivers can place unrealistic demands on themselves.
Signs of caregiver burnout:
- Exhaustion – both physical and emotional
- Loss of interest in activities
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Lack of appetite
- Increased instances of illness
The stress of caring for a loved one does not only fall on the primary caregiver, but their children can feel the impact as well. Children can feel lost or overwhelmed and wish for more time with their parents. Some children may enjoy helping a grandparent with tasks such as making lunch or reading and talking with them, but health concerns, memory loss and the emotional toll of medical conditions can at times be stressful for children.
While parents can work to plan special time with their children and support their efforts to help, the Family Caregiver Alliance advises it’s also important to respect their feelings of discomfort or frustration. “It may be crucial to allow your child to refuse to help as well. It is important to teach and model responsible and caring behavior toward other family members, but it is also essential to respect a young person’s decisions of how and when they can help,” they explain.
“Adolescents, especially, may be uncomfortable with their own feelings of sadness and grief over the changes in a beloved grandparent. Others may be embarrassed by some of the physical aspects of a family member’s care.” FCA adds, “A small child may be frightened by her Grandmother’s agitated pacing and calls for help.”
If you’re experiencing the warning signs listed above or seeing a negative impact on your children, it may be time to consider planning for more help. First, be kind to yourself and accept that it’s OK to welcome help. Then explore your options.
Home health care may be the solution that provides you with the time you need to balance your many responsibilities while ensuring your loved one has the care they need. Your home health care team can work to create a health care plan that meets your family’s needs.
At Premier Home Health Care, we strive to provide resources to the community to make informed choices about health care options. Our Starter Guide is a great place to begin exploring home health care as an option for you and your loved one. Please call us at 1-866-255-8620 to talk to our care specialists.