Adults Face New Challenges as They Start Living "The Sandwich Life"

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How to manage stress while caring for parents and children at the same time

Growing up, a sandwich normally was two pieces of Mrs. Baird's bread with a thick layer of peanut butter in the middle or a slab of bologna with a healthy dose of Miracle Whip. Now, sandwiches are multi-layer, complex creations with seemingly unlimited options. But for many people my age, the term "sandwich" has taken on a new meaning, and one that is just as complex.

I'm talking about that stage when the adult child becomes the meat or peanut butter between the other slices of their life, their parents and their children. Those unlimited options can include full-time jobs, children with disabilities, caring for extended family members, a return to school, the loss of a job, and maybe trying to fit some fun into their "prime" years.

It can quickly become overwhelming, especially when a major life event happens for your aging parent - such as serious health change, the loss of one parent, or necessary move.

Your goal is to make your parents' later years as easy as possible, but you also need to take care of yourself and your growing family.

As the Director of Healthy Aging at Methodist Health System, this is a conversation I've had with many families, as well as my own.

Start by asking your parents how they want to handle situations in the future. They may have a plan in place, but never shared it with you. Is there a will? What other legal documents are needed? Do they have an attorney? Do you have their information? Find out where they have their important documents. Is there a safety deposit box? Are you on the list of those who can access it?

Take time to listen to their medical treatment wishes, in case they are in a situation where they can no longer speak for themselves. There are many resources online that will help you walk through basic, but much needed questions to ask. Check with your local area agency on aging. AARP has a number of resources. PBS' Next Avenue has great articles and research on these topics.

Starting these conversations can be difficult, but not knowing is even more difficult. I advise families to plan ahead, so your sandwich life remains enjoyable.

Find groups of others who are also caregivers for respite, camaraderie, friendship. If you cannot meet in person, the internet and social media is available 24/7. Reach out to others to ease your stress. Keeping your stress level controllable will help you provide the care you want to give.

If you are living the "sandwich life," get advice you need at Boomer U on Saturday, June 25 from 8:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. at Methodist Charlton Medical Center. Sign up here for the free event. Topics include:

  • How to find community resources
  • Addressing your overall health
  • Coping with chronic illness
  • Understanding end of life
  • The spiritual nature of caring for others
Sandwich Life