6 Survival Tips

For the sandwich caregiver.

Do you relate?

If we were to sit together over a rare coffee break from your unremitting responsibilities and be brutally honest, would these statements ring true?

“I want to tear out my hair while interacting with my totally stubborn, aging folks. No sooner am I done with them than my children are begging for attention.”

“My teeth are ground to their roots because of clamping down on what I long to say to all of them.”

“I’m so terribly exhausted most days. I feel like the soggy middle in a burnt (out) triple-decker grilled cheese. And, that’s no bologna!”

You’re not alone anymore.

If you have infinitely impossible— or as I refer to them, “un-cope-able,”— elders, we’ve got something in common. As the 54-year-old only child of excruciating parents, I profoundly know about being trapped in the “Sandwich Generation!”

Your load is crushing, contending with unruly seniors while juggling multiple competing priorities. You’re split between caring for your elderly mother and/or father (possibly in-laws) and balancing a job, significant other, children, grandchildren, home maintenance, your health, and tons more.

You seek to foster positive parental interactions. However, you need support, and you need it now.

Across three grueling years, I was often stuck between a rock and hard place while struggling to strike my own balance. In that time, I left no stone unturned to discover tactics that succeed with even the most pig-headed elder. The following are tips that can help you create a calm amongst the storm.

I long for you to benefit from my painfully earned lessons so you’re saved unnecessary agony. You have my earnest empathy and unbridled support.

  1. Recognize that self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity. You may have heard this before, but are you acting on the advice? Likely not! Exactly when you’re drained, you must recharge. Extreme self-care doesn’t equal selfishness. Nurturing yourself is analogous to donning your oxygen mask first in an airline emergency.
  2. Surrender to certain circumstances for the time being. This notion should not conjure caving. What might at first seem irreconcilable can eventually break through in a wondrous way. Take, for example, my father’s obstinacy regarding his “hoarders-on-steroids” home. Once my mother passed, he suddenly became open to cleaning and gardening support.
  3. Impatience fails to win the day. Maintain your power. Though your parents may seem to risk destroying your capability, this won’t happen. No one can pinch your competence without permission. Don’t let exasperating folks victimize you. They’re the ones who now need parenting.
  4. Quit taking things personally. Your folks’ “naughty” behaviors aren’t necessarily about you. What if they’re essentially afraid of passing on? The unknown beckons. They resist vulnerability. Allow them to drone on about glory days. Their stories may be all they have left.
  5. Feel all your feelings. Did you know it’s 100-percent okay to experience so-called “negative” feelings such as anger and resentment? You need not demonstrate Mother Teresa-like dedication to prove you’re a good daughter.
  6. Please accept my parting encouragements. Beneath the surface turmoil, you seek to rest in the tranquility of easing your parents’ transitions. I implore you to not become a statistic, however. For example, it was found that caregivers experience 63-percent higher mortality rates than non-caregivers of comparable age. Forget the self-righteous who consider eldercare a privilege. Try walking a mile in your lead-heavy shoes!