Contributed by Haley Burress
You likely know someone who is living in the “sandwich generation”; the adults who are caring for both their own children and their aging parents. They might be your neighbors, someone at your church, or even you. Nearly half of middle aged parents are a part of this demographic, being pulled from parent-teacher conferences to geriatrician appointments and everywhere in between. In order to help others from the sandwich generation, you must find ways to lighten their load both emotionally and physically. We’ll get you headed in the right direction to help others with a few of our tips.
Adults in the sandwich generation often feel like they simply do not have enough time or resources to run everyone around. Kiddos need to go to soccer practice, tutoring, and play dates after school while aging parents have doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and social visits. Trying to coordinate all of these drop-off destinations can be overwhelming and a huge energy suck for already tired sandwich generation adults. Help others who are living with these extra responsibilities by taking pick-up and drop-off duty. Offer to take a child to sports practice or sit with an aging parent at a chemotherapy appointment. Even better, make it a set weekly appointment that is consistent and reliable.
Often times, sandwich generation adults can be so busy that making breakfast or dinner can seem overwhelming. It is easy to hit up an unhealthy drive-through option on the way home from work when you are too exhausted to even consider what to make for dinner. Help others by taking care of dinner, either for the family or for the aging parents once or twice per month. Consider dropping off scrambled egg burritos that can be frozen and then popped in the microwave or a double batch of chicken noodle soup. Take care to find out any food allergies or preferences and don’t forget dessert!
The sandwich generation is constantly thinking of someone other than themselves. It can be stressful enough raising children, but add in the extra concern for an aging or failing parent and it can be unbearable. Help others in the sandwich generation by making it your priority to check in and care for them. Put it on your calendar to call or text a few times per week or make it a priority to take your friend to coffee once a month. Ask your friend what she needs and respond with help. Does she need an afternoon alone to just wander the aisles of Target? Offer to watch the kids so that she can. Does she need someone to sit with her confused mother this weekend so that she can go to her child’s soccer game? Listen for her concerns and also watch for nonverbal signs of burnout or exhaustion.
Sometimes the sandwich generation just needs a pat on the back, a hug, or a listening ear. Offering encouragement can be a lifesaver, especially on a busy or stressful day. If you know that your friend is headed to a major doctor appointment with her aging parent, touch base with her that day to find out how it went. Letting your friend know that you love her and are listening will make her feel important and loved. Sandwich generation adults are under extra stress and deserve a high five of encouragement for all of the caring they do.