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Tips for Sandwich Generation Caregivers During COVID-19

family caregivers, sandwich generation caregivers, COVID-19

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Family caregivers have a big responsibility on any given day, but news about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the effects it may have on people with suppressed immune systems and older adults with chronic illness are especially concerning.

COVID-19 has thrust many family members into caregiving roles for the first time and, at the same time, required existing caregivers to adapt to how they carry out their caregiving responsibility.

Caregivers are of many different types. For example, an estimated 28% of caregivers are “sandwiched” between caring for an aging parent or older adult while also raising their own children. These caregivers often are balancing the demands of work and school.

Also, many unpaid family caregivers may be unemployed as a result of the financial uncertainty created by this pandemic. Some caregivers live with those for whom they care, and others provide care from a distance. In addition, the role of caregiving is influenced by many factors, such as the age and underlying conditions of the person receiving care.

While the caregivers’ circumstances and the underlying conditions of the person receiving care may be unique, these situations have some commonalities. First, caregiving often is dynamic and unpredictable, frequently requiring caregivers to navigate crisis with their loved ones.

Second, family caregivers keep their loved ones at home, which decreases the burden or demand on home and community-based services. The value of family caregivers keeping their loves ones healthy and at home and not overburdening emergency rooms and hospitals cannot be overstated.

Sandwich generation caregivers juggle multiple responsibilities, such as school, work, child care, self-care and other tasks of daily life in addition to caregiving responsibilities for an adult. When balancing caregiving with the other demands of life becomes difficult, caregivers often feel overwhelmed and stressed.

The need to balance life and caregiving becomes increasingly important for the caregiver’s own health and well-being. Here are some strategies for those faced with caring for children and older family members:

  • State what you can and cannot do and say “no” when needed. Determine your needs, whether it is a 15-minute walk or a regular video-chat with friends, and be firm about making this happen.
  • Do not hesitate to drop nonessential activities from your list. Be flexible and use approaches to simplify life.
  • Do not be reluctant to enlist the help of relatives, friends, neighbors or fellow church members to help with tasks. Kids can pitch in with household chores.
  • Provide regular updates to other family members through email, text groups, Google Drive documents or apps.
  • Caregiving can last years and even decades. Take the time to research services and supports, such as respite care and adult day care, in your community.
  • Check on options for working from home or flexibility to work different hours. Explore employee paid or unpaid leave benefits.
  • Seek balance. Be flexible and focus on the needs of your family and yourself, knowing that each day and week will be different.

Sandwich generation caregivers are providing an important source of support and love to family members. From their role, these caregivers often experience feelings of satisfaction and meaning in their lives.

However, many caregivers typically feel highly strained and overwhelmed with the emotional, physical and financial burden taking a toll them. Implementing positive strategies to better care for themselves while they care for others is even more critical for caregivers in this time of COVID-19.

For more resources on family caregiving or opportunities for education, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/aging/caregiving or contact NDSU Extension in Mercer County at 873-5195.

Source: National Institute on Aging

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