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The "sandwich generation" is a good
description. There's pressure from both sides and sometimes it gets
messy in the middle. That's what it can feel like if you're taking
care of not only your children but your aging parent as well.
Add in a spouse and a job and it's no wonder
it often seems a twenty-four-hour day and seven-day week just aren't
enough for all you have to do.
Then, too, from the time all of us were
little we were taught there is a right way and a wrong way to
accomplish a task. To meet—and overcome— challenge. Maybe your
parent took care of Grandma or Grandpa. Your spouse took care of your
mother- or father-in-law. Your friends or co-workers seem to be able
to handle their situations. But you . . . .
When you realize, when it becomes so
painfully obvious, you can't do all the things you're supposed to do—all
the things other people have done or are doing—you feel so
inadequate. So guilty.
You think you're letting everyone down. If
you just worked a little harder. Slept a little less. Sacrificed a
little more. Then somehow . . . .
If you find yourself in that situation, or
feel yourself sinking into it, these suggestions might help:
● Remember there is no single
"right" way to do this. Trying to exactly mimic what another
person has done probably isn't going to work. Each case is unique
because the personalities and problems in each case are unique.
● If you don't take care of yourself—take
time to eat, sleep, catch your breath and pray—you will burn out
quickly and be of little use to anyone, including yourself. The
situation in which you find yourself is not a sprint, it's a marathon.
Yes, someday it will end but that may be a long, long time from now.
In the meantime, if you do not pace yourself, sometimes even pamper
yourself, you won't be able to keep going. That's not because you're
weak, it's because you're human.
● The big picture can look and feel
overwhelming. Sometimes it helps to break it down into the many tiny
pieces that make up the whole. What you have to do for your parent.
Your children. Your spouse. Your job. Yourself. The lists may be long
but somehow no single item is overpowering.
● Prioritize your tasks. Making those
lists helps. Obviously, getting Mom to her doctor's appointment is
more important than vacuuming her apartment.
● Give away some of the low-priority
duties. Someone else can be hired to do the apartment cleaning.
Someone else—the bakery department at the local grocery store—can
supply the brownies you're supposed to send to the next Cub Scout den
● Get support for yourself. Groups for
caregivers and organizations that focus on your parent's particular
illness or condition can help you deal with what you are facing.
Doctors, social workers and the Area Agency on Aging can give you
● Write it down. Dates and schedules
and all that information from doctors, therapists, pharmacists,
teachers, coaches, your boss, your spouse, your kids . . . . There's
no way a person can remember all the things you need to remember.
It may seem the day is completely packed but
if you jot down your own "to do" list, you may discover
there's half an hour free here. Twenty minutes there. A little oasis
like that gives you something to look forward to. A short break to at
least partially recharge your batteries before you have to go, go, go
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