For anyone who has ever had the honor to care for an aging relative, the gifts of this act are immediate and apparent. There is the chance to complete an important circle, to show love, and so many other intangibles.
Still, it would be wrong not to recognize the strain – financial, physical and emotional, that this care necessarily causes a loving caregiver. For all these reasons, it is critical to equally support the caregiver, as the caregiver supports their aging relative.
It can be emotionally difficult for people to accept help with things like using the bathroom, and taking a shower. So too can it be difficult for a caregiver to physically provide it. Visiting nurse services can provide essential respite for caregivers who need a break and want to be certain that their loved one is in capable hands.
The emergent Sandwich generation bears the cost of managing care for their children, themselves, and their parents all at the same time. According to a study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues:
“As age at first birth has increased, along with life expectancy, the probability that adults will face responsibilities for care of both young children and elderly parents has increased. Nearly half (47 %) of Americans aged between 47 and 59 have an older parent aged at least 65 years and are also raising at least one child aged under 18 or provide financial support to a grown adult child aged 18 and over."
The cost of this is difficult to measure. It helps to imagine the combined responsibilities and obligations of different generations of a family. For example, the needs of a school age child (ballet, soccer); the professional obligations of a parent (work meetings, business trips); and the needs of an aging parent (medical appointments, social obligations). In offering assistance to a family under pressure, consider ways to develop a centralized care calendar and invite extended family, friends, and others to help out.
Sit down with the person whom you wish to help and begin by asking exactly what their schedule looks like. Then build a calendar that reflects the complexity of their daily life. Who can pick up a child from school and take them to ballet? Who can take the aging relative to a support group at the community center every Monday at 7? Who can come to the house and make sure everything gets done from homework to medication when the primary caregiver is out of town from February 23 – 25. Get specific.
Consider also the daily needs of a family and consider ways to offset costs. As a person gets older and/or more infirm, needs may become more intense. Conversations around respite care and visiting nurses may need to take place more regularly.
In the meantime, there are any number of things that add up. Items from the pharmacy add up fast.
So too are providing meals to the family juggling so much. Meals can be provided in person if the person giving lives nearby. But do make use of extended networks whose members may certainly be invited to participate from a distance using a gift card to Ubereats, Grubhub, or Seamless. All these services enable your recipient to select their own dinner and have it delivered.
Laundry services may be extremely useful. Let’s be real – any family could use a laundry service. That said, such a service might be essential for a family needing to change sheets regularly.
Families all take a village. Clear communication enables all who want to participate to do so – and to the best of their ability. Some people will have more time than they do money. Others may have more money than they do time. Working together, an extended family can work collaboratively to provide care to the person they all love.
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