© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
On being termed a 'club sandwich', it's natural to laugh before dissolving into tears. It is stressful looking after grandchildren, adult children and spouses or, the other layering, children, parents and grandparents.
Generational Sandwiches: Whether a member of the 'traditional sandwich', 'club sandwich' or 'open sandwich', the humour of the terminology abruptly stops when one accounts for the emotional, physical and financial toll of being a carer for multiple generations.
There are plenty of statistics out there about the flows of care and the toll it takes.
The downward flow of care, mainly financial, involves having adult children live in the family home and giving them cash handouts of around $3K to $4K annually in financial support.
The upward flow involves giving time and labour-intensive care and support to elderly parents, and sometimes financial support for in home care and aged care facility accommodation bonds.
In amongst the flows is the need to stretch yourself a little further to maintain a loving and supportive relationship with your partner.
As for the person most stressed by the situation, the research is unanimous. It is the woman in her 40s and 50s who is juggling it all. At this age, they are invariably working and face the additional stress of giving up on career progression to simply hang in there during the stressful period - and it could be years.
What to do if you're in the Sandwich Generation?
We don't need any further statistics or definitions. We simply need some solutions. Here are some of my suggestions.
- Have the open conversations about finances. Find out everyone's financial situation. If the adult children are living at home and can contribute to household income, ask for a contribution. If no one has control of your parents' finances, organise for them to see a solicitor to appoint someone to take control. Direct debit for every day bills reduces the paperwork. Get them in place.
- Seek the advice of a financial planner. If you are good at drawing up budgets and financial forecasting, draw them up before visiting the planner. There is nothing more stressful than money worries and it is best to have the conversation with a professional.
- Speak to your boss. If you are working, speak to your boss and seek flexible work arrangements. Keep them up to date every month or so as to how you are travelling.
- Arrange some support. In your own home, hire cleaners or pay one of the adult children to do the job. For your elderly loved ones, arrange some in-home care - be it cleaners, gardeners, a person to take your loved one shopping once a week or having someone help prepare daily meals or just companionship as many older Australians are lonely. Speak with the local taxi service and organise a driver as back up support for transport to medical appointments.
The Australian government subsidises in-home care, so speak with a care consultant like myself, about putting in place home care and other support services.
- Sit down and list your support team. You cannot undertake the care on your own. You need to tell your family and friends that you are stressed and need support.
A support team may involve a mix of paid carers, other family members, neighbours, family friends and volunteers. Draw up the list and approach each person with your request for help, what the help involves and how often, and then delegate.
For neighbours and family friends, it may be as little as a visit or phone call to your elderly loved one once every four or six months. Ask, negotiate and then schedule it in.
- There is technology that can help monitor. Some clients have GoPro monitors set up in a parent's lounge room, others use Alexa devices, the Apple watch and emergency alarm wristbands. There are a range of devices that can help you gain some peace of mind when looking after the elderly.
- Make sure you exercise, eat well and maintain your sleep. If you go down, the whole show goes down. You need to maintain your balance and look after yourself.
If you are feeling "sandwiched" and need help getting on top of your challenges, please feel free to call or email me, Danielle Robertson, for a no obligation, complimentary discussion.