The “Club Sandwich” generation!
By Joanne R Kanute, BCMCLC, AACC, CIM, CSA, Cos.
The average person spends approximately 17 ½ years caring for their children, but also spend 18 ½ years caring for an older relative or spouse. And now we are adding responsibilities of grandchildren and often adult children, we are the “Baby Boomer – BUST Generation”! The baby boomer generation is the first generation attempting to wear many hats at one time.
The stress levels are taking a toll on the health of the “Baby Boomers”! The baby boomers are suffering from various chronic disease and many deaths at a young age. Something needs to change!
Often people don’t have a sense of what caregiving will mean for them in the long run. One must think long and hard plus take into consideration all of the facts and figures before making the commitment. A person who cares for someone 50+ for 4 ½ years is financially impacted on the average $303, 880. When you take into consideration your loss of wages, additional expenses, pensions, social security, benefits, etc. over your lifetime; it does add up quickly!
Being a caregiver is the hardest job I and you will ever have! Parenting your parents brings family dynamics to a whole different level. Keeping our parents/loved ones in a safe environment and making sure their needs are met is our responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you might be the best option as their caregiver. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver or financially able to be a caregiver. In some cases there is more care required than what we as individuals can give due to knowledge, equipment, capabilities or space.
Caregiving not only has an impact on your personal financial future but also is impacting employers in a huge way! U.S. businesses lose $34 billion annually due to employees need to take care of relatives.
How does the “Baby Boomers” balance work and caregiving?
- Support – don’t isolate yourself; find support in friends, family or support groups.
- Guilt – there is not such a thing as a “perfect” caregiver, and perhaps you are not the right one for the job.
- Setting limits – learn to ask for help.
- Your body – sleep, eat right, exercise; take care of yourself!
- Education – educate yourself about the illness and what’s happening.
- Emotional health & respite – it’s easy to become overwhelmed, take a break.
I was my mother’s caregiver for 5 ½ years, it was very difficult at times and yet I am thankful for the time we were able to spend together. That time did not come without a sacrifice from my family, my business, my career, our finances and my health. One needs to educate yourself and be aware before you make the commitment! It is not your loved ones desire to have to rely on someone’s help, my mother always felt badly when she was lying in the hospital bed and could hear me calling clients to cancel their appointments and trying to handle a crisis at my business. She would tell me, “just leave me here, I will call you when they discharge me, you can’t lose this much work.” I wasn’t about to leave her there in the hospital without someone being there to be her advocate.
The best advice I can pass onto you is take care of the caregiver first! What does taking care of yourself really mean?
- Take care of myself so that I can continue doing the things that are most important.
- Simplify my lifestyle so that my time and energy are available for things that are really important at this time.
- Cultivate the gift of allowing others to help me, because caring for my relative is too big a job to be done by one person.
- Take one day at a time rather than worry about what may or may not happen in the future.
- Structure my day, because a consistent schedule makes life easier for me and my relative.
- Have a sense of humor, because laughter helps to put things in a more positive perspective.
- Remember that my relative is not being “difficult” on purpose, rather that his/her behavior and emotions are distorted by the illness.
- Focus on and enjoy what my relative can still do rather than constantly lament over what is gone.
- Increasingly depend upon other relationships for love and support.
- Frequently remind myself that I am doing the best that I can at this very moment.
- Draw upon the Higher Power, which I believe is available to you. (Above bullet points reprinted from The American Journal of Alzheimer”s Care and Related Disorders & Research, November/December, 1989, 4(6), 38-41.)
My challenge to you is, who will take care of you the caregiver if you don’t!