As a full-time employee, the mom of 3 school-age children, and a caregiver for her aging mother, Ruth was one of the millions of ‘sandwich generation’ Americans. Life for middle-age adults in the sandwich generation is often a challenging juggling act. Work and home responsibilities, along with the demands of caregiving, can lead to burnout, depression, and stress that impacts mental and physical health. When Ruth hired me to be her mother’s care manager, she was feeling completely overwhelmed.
“I never have any time to myself or even see my friends anymore,” she told me. “It seems that I’m always rushing from one thing to the next, from work to my mother’s house, and when I finally get home, I’m exhausted. I feel like I’m neglecting the kids and my husband too, and I don’t know how to get off this treadmill!” Her conflicting emotions – resentment about having so much responsibility, and guilt about feeling that way – made things even worse.
Like many individuals I’ve worked with, Ruth cared deeply about her mother and her family’s welfare but almost always put her own needs at the bottom of the list. We talked about a plan to give her some relief, and to help her improve her quality of life and the quality of her relationships.
“It isn’t selfish for you to take care of your needs,” I stressed. “In fact, it’s essential for you to make yourself a priority.”
“That’s easier said than done,” Ruth said, but she also knew it was time to make some changes.
We started with finding in-home help for Ruth’s mother, who had also been concerned that Ruth was doing too much. The home health aide was an experienced and friendly older woman who helped Ruth’s mother with her daily routine and accompanied her to the grocery store and pharmacy. I monitored her mother’s health status, attended medical appointments, and kept in regular communication with Ruth. This made Ruth’s life much easier, and having a balance reduced her stress.
She asked her children to help around the home because they were more than capable of taking over some household tasks, such as laundry and cleaning. She became better at delegating, and this also gave her more time to focus on her marriage.
“My husband and I decided we need to have regular ‘date nights,'” she said. “Plus, we started taking a walk every day right after dinner. I think that was my problem too – I stopped exercising, and that’s always been a way for me to let off steam. The kids clean up the dishes while we take a nice walk together and talk about things. We’re getting along and connecting on a personal level.”
It wasn’t long before Ruth started feeling more in control and her quality of life and her relationships improved. While there were still stressors in her life, she felt better able to handle them. If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to give yourself permission to ask for help and support and make time for self-care.
If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at (203) 258-2640 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to assist!