AARP Family Expert Offers Coping Tips for the Sandwich Generation

If you're taking care of your parents and children financially, this advice is for you

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Being a member of the Sandwich Generation brings not only financial stress but also emotional stress.

Black Enterprise sat down with Amy Goyer, AARP’s caregiving and family expert, and author of the book Juggling Work and Caregiving, for advice on how to deal with the strain that comes with balancing conflicting household needs.

BLACK ENTERPRISE: How can caregivers handle the emotional burden?
AMY GOYER: Handling the emotion of caregiving is the hardest part. You have to first acknowledge the fact that this can be a very emotional experience because you’re seeing someone you love change, and they are becoming very dependent on you. In addition, your role is changing. Your role is no longer daughter, or wife, or friend, it’s caregiver. So the relationship changes in a sense.

Remind yourself why you’re doing this. I really encourage people to look at their own outlook and how they think about things. That is probably the one thing that you can control. One of the things I tell people to do is remind yourself why you’re doing this. So when you’re exhausted and you’re emotional, and you’re thinking you can’t do this anymore, just stop and say to yourself, “I love my dad [or my mom], and that’s why I’m doing this. I choose to do this.” However, it might be harder if you didn’t have a good relationship with the person you’re caring for. It’s important to remember a few key points:

Get help. Beyond looking at your own mindset, another thing I encourage caregivers to do is to get help. Sometimes counseling is very helpful, or even a support group where you can talk to other caregivers and they can understand where you’re coming from. For some people, just being able to express how they’re feeling is what they need the most. You have to find a circle of support. Also find outlets for stress relief. Take a walk and make sure to get enough sleep. I’d have to say that sleep deprivation is the biggest enemy of caregivers because it robs us of our ability to cope. It’s hard to deal with tough situations when you’re exhausted.

Take a break. You have to have time away from the person you’re caring for. You have to find time to have that in some way; they could even be quick breaks. For example, you could sit alone for five minutes or take a short vacation. You don’t expect your car to run without gas, so you can’t expect yourself to either. You have to discover what fills you up, what nurtures you, and what fuels your tank.

BLACK ENTERPRISE: What types of resources are available for caregivers as far as dealing with the emotional aspect? What support groups are available?

GOYER: Contact your local department of aging and look for local groups. They generally have a list of local support groups. To find your area’s agency on aging, you can go online to a website called the Elder Care Locator. And you can put in your zip code and find the resources available there. Also contact local hospitals and your faith community for support groups.

Stay tuned for the October issue of Black Enterprise, where we’ll feature additional tips and financial advice for the Sandwich Generation.

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