How to Stay Sane During the Holidays as a Sandwich Generation Caregiver
If one can believe the old Westerns, frontier women were the ultimate multi-taskers. They could rock a cradle with their foot to quiet a squalling baby while pounding out bread dough with their fists, minding a full crew of young kids and maybe dodging a few bullets in the process. Oh, yeah, and since it was just days before Christmas, these women would also be knitting gifts for the family during odd bits of time.
That scenario sounds like a walk in the park compared to the lives of some modern caregivers, especially those who belong to the sandwich generation. These men and women work overtime to raise children while caring for their aging parents. During the holiday season, nearly every parent has one, if not several, school holiday performances to attend and church or other religious programs to participate in. Many have a full-time job, which often requires attendance at office functions outside of work hours, not to mention festivities during work time that require a big smile and a batch of homemade cookies. Sound familiar? All of this is expected in addition to maintaining traditions and holiday cheer at home.
Prior to an aging parent’s health issues, the busy season described above would be a “normal” Christmas for you and your family. Things would be rushed but still mostly pleasant. Not now. The house sits undecorated, your favorite cookie recipes have been swept into a corner on the kitchen counter, you’re behind on your holiday shopping and when you attend your kids’ programs, you fight to make yourself look like you actually want to be there. The addition of caregiving is often the tipping point between enjoying the holiday season and teetering on the edge of insanity.
Caregivers Tend to Spread Themselves Too Thin: You think back. Mom had always been helpful, doing some of the baking and stepping in when you needed help with the kids. Dad was good natured and would even pitch in with some decorating tasks when your husband was traveling. Now your parents both need help. Lots of help. Your kids still need you. Your spouse needs you. You feel like everyone wants a piece of you. You feel angry and that leads to guilt. Why does this feel so unfair? And where is the will to celebrate? What’s a caregiver to do?
You know this is your new normal, at least for the present. And it’s still the holiday season. Somehow, you must carry on and make it special for your children and your parents. It’s tough, but…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
Support a caregiver or jump-start discussion in support groups with real stories – for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol