Menopause Kuel Category Expert: Lorraine Miano
The sandwich generation. Being in the middle.
There are over seventy-four million baby boomers living in the U.S. today. That is approximately one-fourth of the U.S. total population (per the 2012 census). These are the folks born between 1946 and 1964, more than half of which are women.
According to NABBW.com (National Association of Baby Boomer Women), by the year 2030, over fifty-four percent of boomers will be women. That makes for a whole lot of changing hormones in the universe at one time.
The term “sandwich generation” is defined as a portion of the population who may still be raising children under the age of eighteen or supporting their grown children while also caring for aging parents. While the financial responsibility itself can add a level of stress to an already stressed-out life, imagine what the emotional, and ultimately, physical effects are on a person of the sandwich generation.
“Fun times were planned! What we didn’t expect to happen..”
Fun Times Were Planned!
During this past month, I’ve experienced first-hand what this looks like. Although my husband and I are no longer supporting any of our three adult children, we do try to find as much time as possible to visit with and care for our six grandchildren.
So, when my daughter and her family came for a two-week vacation and asked if we could watch her three children for three nights so she and her hubby could celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, we quite happily agreed. Fun times were planned! What we didn’t expect to happen, was a staph infection developing in my elderly Mom’s recent hip revision surgery. This meant another surgery and a week-long hospital stay at just the time my daughter was set to arrive.
Thankfully I have two sisters who live close by, and we all juggled bringing my dad to visit her in the hospital. Upon Mom’s release, we were instructed on how to do home infusions using her PICC line (a thin, soft, long catheter (tube) that is inserted into a vein in your arm, leg, or neck.
“My heart goes out to each and every one of you. You are angels.”
Emotionally And Physically Exhausted:
The tip of the catheter is positioned in a large vein that carries blood into the heart. The PICC line is used for long-term intravenous (IV) antibiotics, nutrition or medications, and for blood draws). This was terrifying at first.
But we are now pros at it! We are currently in the third week of a six-week program. The infusions need to be done twice daily at 9 am and 9 pm. So, amidst running through sunflower fields, riding carousels, swimming at the pool, and bedtime snuggles with the grands, I was running to do infusions, make doctors appointments, and too many to count phone calls to medical professionals. I have to admit, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.
I am truly so fortunate to have my two sisters to help out with our parents. And I can imagine how utterly exhausting being a sole caregiver can be. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. You are angels.
“That means that adult children often carry this burden decades longer than their parents or grandparents did.”
Being In The Sandwich Generation:
A recent article in Psychology Today, Being in the Sandwich Generation, presented some interesting facts: “While balancing the double burden of caring for parents and children at the same time is hardly new, improvements in geriatric care are ensuring that people are living longer.”
“That means that adult children often carry this burden decades longer than their parents or grandparents did. The stress that this places on adult children acting as caregivers can be overwhelming, especially as new health problems develop in their aging parents”. Add to this the fact that close to thirty percent of young adults aged 25-34 still live with their parents due to lack of employment, and you can imagine how stress levels can skyrocket.
According to CaregiverAction.org, sixty-six percent of these caregivers are women with an average of twenty hours per week spent on caregiving.
How Much Can One Body Take?
Do you wonder why women suffer from anxiety, depression, and adrenal fatigue? The majority of these women are between the ages of 49-59, prime menopause years. Perhaps this describes you? While dealing with your own uncomfortable symptoms of hot flashes, mood swings, and fatigue, you may also be tending to an aging parent who needs constant care. How much can one body take? You probably feel as if you don’t have the time to care for yourself, or you may have forgotten the importance of doing so. Self-care is a matter of survival.
Caregiver stress is real and can lead to our own health issues if we don’t find ways to cope with it.
Seven Ways To Alleviate Caregiver Stress:
“Try to do at least one special thing for yourself each day.”
1. Let’s Begin With Taking Care Of Your Own Health:
If we, in the Sandwich Generation, can keep ourselves in optimum good health, it will afford us the ability to be a strong support system to our loved ones, both older and younger.
Self-care can take the form of eating healthy, exercising regularly, going on a social outing, getting plenty of sleep, as well as using stress-reducing techniques like getting a massage, meditation, or yoga. This also includes taking breaks from your caregiving role. Maybe even schedule a respite stay for your parent for one to four weeks to give you time to recharge. Remember you are not being selfish. Self-care is an absolute necessity. Try to do at least one special thing for yourself each day.
2. Plan Ahead:
Know what your parent’s wishes are, financially as well as medically. A great resource to help your parents organize is the Living Prepared Workbook by Preferred Living Solutions. This comprehensive resource includes sections for insurance policies, medical history, financial information, usernames and passwords, social security cards, warranty information, and much more.
3. Attend Seminars:
Deal with the issues your elderly parents may be facing, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
4. Find Support Groups In Your Area:
Venting can be quite helpful.
5. There Are Multiple Agencies You Can Contact For Help:
A great source for finding the help you need is AgingLifeCare.org. Here you can find info on working with an Aging Life Care professional, otherwise known as a geriatric care manager.
They are experts in guiding families as they care for their loved ones through assessment and monitoring, planning and problem-solving, education, advocacy, and family caregiver coaching. This allows for the families to ensure quality care for their loved ones. These professionals are health and human services specialists who act as guides and advocates for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults. Be sure to utilize the expertise of a care manager or specialist.
“Keep a running list to delegate.”
6. If Your Children Are Living With You, Be Sure That They Pitch In At Home:
As teenagers growing up with my grandmother living in the cottage in our backyard, my sisters and I were often tasked (along with our daily chores of laundry and cleaning) with taking my grandma grocery shopping and to her doctor’s appointments. It was just part of life. We had two parents who worked full time. We all pitched in where we could. Remember the old saying, “It builds character!” If you have siblings that live close by, be sure they are helping you share the load as well. Be specific and tell those who offer to help exactly what it is they can do. Keep a running list to delegate. This might even include running an errand for YOU so that you are better able to be present for your loved one.
7. Prioritize, Queen Of Sandwich:
Make a list of all that you need to accomplish. Let go of those items that are not of immediate necessity.
And finally, be present. You may be struggling to keep it together and things may seem overwhelming. Beyond overwhelming. Having to care for an elderly parent is stressful. There is no doubt about it. I am asking you to find joy in each moment. If we focus on the good moments, the time we are sharing with them, maybe retelling some stories or just giving them a long bear hug, showing them how much they are truly cared for, the love and care you have for your parents should not only comfort them, but it will bring an abundance of grace and peace.
About the Author:
As a post-menopausal woman herself, Lorraine Miano discovered her passion of offering menopause advocacy, support and resources to women in all phases of menopause through health coaching, proper nutrition and preventive lifestyle choices. She received her certifications as a Health Coach and hormone health expert from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She has been able to help even more women by writing and publishing her first book, The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back!
Lorraine loves to encourage her clients with her mantra “Menopause is NOT an ending! IT IS a new beginning!” When she’s not advocating for “the change”, you can find Lorraine traveling with her husband Richard, quite often to visit her 5 grandchildren who call her “Nonni”.