Many baby boomers have grown to think of themselves as part of what has been termed the “sandwich generation”, caring for their aging parents or grandparents and their children at the same time. Calling that simply a sandwich overlooks a very important part of the equation, unfortunately the same part many boomers overlook — yourself.
Sharing information about the Triple Decker Sandwich Generation is an attempt to get boomer caregivers to realize the portion of the sandwich in the middle needs care as well. So often we find family caregivers putting their own needs on hold to address the sometime overwhelming needs of their children and senior loved ones.
No one in the multiple layers of the sandwich benefit when a caregiver ignores her or his own needs to focus totally on the needs of others. For some reason, though, we have been taught to feel like we’re being selfish when we think of ourselves. Just the opposite is true however. When we take time to take care of ourselves, we put ourselves in a better position to give our best to others.
What happens when you shove your needs aside for too long? There are many reports of stress related disease and depression among boomer caregivers. Certainly being the middle “deck” of the sandwich can contribute to that. Focusing on the health care needs of others but ignoring your own can have serious consequences, especially for those entering a time in their lives where medical visits should be growing more – rather than less – frequent.
Being a Caregiver to Yourself
Taking care of that middle deck of the sandwich doesn’t mean simply looking after yourself, but those aspects of your life that are also necessary to your well being.
- caring for a relationship with a spouse, partner or friends who help complete your life
- putting appropriate focus on the job that provides the income needed to support the other aspects of your life (and hopefully some fulfillment)
- hobbies, sports or other activities that let you get away from the rest of your life for a while
- anything other aspect of your life that is important to you and allows you to decompress
The first step in caring for the middle deck of your family sandwich is to recognize that you and your needs are important and need to be met. Take some time for yourself and think about those needs putting plans in place to address them, just as you do to meet the needs of your children and senior loved ones for whom you care.
How do you care for yourself and your needs when it already feels like there are too few hours in each day? Can you substitute technology for some of the effort you put in already? There are a growing numbers of devices and programs that bright people have developed to meet the needs of people like you. There might just be an app for that!
In order to fully care for yourself to care for your family, you have to give yourself permission to put yourself in the sandwich instead of on the side of the plate. Some days will be harder than others to find time for your needs, but don’t give up. You will feel stronger when you have met your needs and be more able to be a loving and competent caregiver to the rest of the sandwich layers in your life.
We would love to hear how YOU care for the middle of your Triple Decker Sandwich so we can learn from each other.