Odds are that many people rely on you, from coworkers to your spouse and kids to the family pet. For the Sandwich Generation—the 44 million adults who are also caring for an aging loved one—life gets complicated quickly.
“Most of us are already pushed to capacity with the hefty demands of our daily lives. On top of that, the average family caregiver is spending 20 hours a week caring for a loved one. This would overwhelm anyone,” said Allen Hager, founder and chairman of in-home senior care agency Right at Home.
If you haven’t already joined the ranks, it’s likely you will in coming years. Seniors are living longer than ever. It’s a fantastic result of modern technology and modern medicine. But it also means that the adult children of the Greatest Generation (and soon the Baby Boomers) must assume caregiving duties for their aging parents, all while still raising children.
So how can you manage to keep all your balls in the air without tossing a few of them aside? It’s simpler than you think. The following five tips can help take you from overwhelmed to master multitasker.
1. Establish routines for things you do on a regular basis, like grocery shopping. Once you adapt to a regular system, you can start to ease into autopilot, reducing the energy and stress associated with the task.
2. Set limits. Consider what is important to you, and what makes you feel out of control. This can mean not taking phone calls between certain hours of the day, or not taking work home with you. Boundaries are critical to finding time to recharge and maintaining a healthy balance so you don’t burn out.
3. Learn to say “no.” There always will be more that others want done; it just doesn’t have to be done by you. If you have trouble saying “no,” make a policy of never giving a “yes” on the spot. Instead, express your desire to help out and ask for time to think it over so you can consider if the commitment is realistic.
4. Add to your team. Not everything has to be done by you and you alone. Start a carpool for your son’s soccer team; enlist your teen to help with errands; start a rotation with other relatives to check in on your aging loved one.
5. Enlist useful services to take items off of your personal list. House-cleaning services, yard-care companies and in-home care agencies all can take big tasks off your list without neglecting anything or anyone.
“It’s natural to feel daunted by taking on a large new responsibility like caring for an aging loved one. However, with the right support, it is absolutely possible to make it work without overwhelming yourself,” Hager said.
By consciously assessing the demands on your life, you can simplify without dropping anything. Don’t get caught in the trap of feeling you alone are responsible for everything. You can’t sustain your role as a caregiver to your loved ones if you do not take proper care of yourself.