The Sandwich Generation

Written by Rita Kennen

Caring for your growing children and aging parents can be a challenge. It also teaches important lessons in love and patience.

My friend Vicki adores her parents. But I'll never forget how hard she and husband Tom struggled five years ago when Vicki's parents came to live with them. They knew life would change; what they didn't know was how much.

Caring for your parents:
Hire a financial planner to assess your parents' assets and plan for their needs.
Hire an attorney. Make sure you have power of attorney for financial and health-care decisions.
If your employer is agreeable, consider working at home part time.
Include your children in caring for your parents.

Watch This Video of Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discuss work-life balance and priorities.

Today Vicki's dad suffers from multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair. His inability to climb stairs necessitated turning the family dining room into his bedroom. The financial responsibilities of raising two daughters ruled out the possibility of building a home extension. Privacy became a thing of the past.

Vicki is a member of the sandwich generation: people raising kids and caring for aging parents. A typical sandwich generation member is female, 45 years old, married, raising a family, and has either a part or full-time job.

More than one-third of sandwich generation members spend less time with their spouses and children than non-caregivers. They report feeling guilty and overwhelmed much of the time. They also get sick and suffer from exhaustion more frequently than non-caregivers.

Author, psychologist and personal coach Susan Pilgrim, who works with sandwich generation families, emphasizes establishing priorities. She warns, "If your personality involves being a people pleaser, you'll get sucked right in. When conflicts come up, know what your priorities are and stick to them."

Despite the added responsibilities and stress, Vicki doesn't regret her decision. "I know that if I hadn't persuaded [my parents] to live with us they would not be alive today," she says.

Vicki and Tom's daughters have also benefited from the day-to-day connection with their grandparents. Caring for an elderly family member teaches everyone in the household invaluable lessons in patience and love.

Related Stories:

Nurturing Yourself with Nature

Battle of the Boomer Bulge

How to age well

DVD:Stephen Covey on Life Priorities

5 Keys to Handle Stress

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