Around 2.4 million people are referred to as the “Sandwich Generation”, much of this is caused by our choices to have children later in life and the fact that we are all living longer. In the last ten years female carers (aged 50-64) have increased by 13% to 1.2 million. More of us than ever are caught in the middle of caring for elderly relatives whilst looking after our own young family or for some, caring for young grandchildren due to both parents returning to work can be another dual care responsibility.
I had chosen to have children later in life and had my first child when I was aged thirty four. I witnessed first-hand how difficult it was for my mum to juggle her time and energy to care for my gran and later for my grandpa through various stages of vascular dementia, which she did as best as she could whilst trying to hold down a career and help me with my newborn.
Depending on the condition the elderly person is living with, caring is not only physically demanding but can also be incredibly mentally demanding. Help with daily living alongside managing social services, attending various doctors and hospital appointments which often lead to having to make important decisions around what might be best for the individual, lack of sleep caused by late night calls of distress or upset when your loved one’s memory loss or confusion around time has affected their ability to make decisions. This coupled with trying to find enough energy to play with your own young children or help out with the grandkids is a common problem.
So who is taking care of you? Who is looking after your personal health?
Exercise, planning a healthy meal and even considering self care often gets discarded. Most women pride themselves on their ability to multitask and juggle care but often they also feel utterly exhausted and burnt out. In the end your own health can become affected.
There is no easy answer to finding a solution to finding time.
But here are some tips that our clients have tried and have found helpful:
- The most important thing you can do for yourself is to give yourself permission to accept help from whatever that source may be. Use your support network – rally together friends, other family members, enquire about voluntary services, social services and see what is available and start delegating.
- Prioritize what really matters. What can you cut out to make your life just a bit easier.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be “good enough” is a good mantra to have. No-one will be able to do the things you do or the way you do them as a carer and that’s ok. Learn to accept this and you will find things much easier.
- Sit down with family and friends and create a timetable of who is doing what and when so that you can see where you can fit in some time for yourself.
- Talk with your employer to ask how they can support you? Perhaps you could have some time off, work from home, have a more flexible working day or reduced hours?
- Start saying no, (at least sometimes). Saying no to someone can leave you feeling guilty or selfish and you are not alone in this feeling. Explain the situation and people will understand your time is precious and that you simply can’t take on any more responsibilities at the moment.
- Build the time you gain into a regular weekly routine and do something for you. It might be simply going for a walk, preparing and enjoying a meal, getting together with friends to take part in an exercise class, or simply recovering by allowing yourself to rest.
- Save time by arranging to have your food shopping delivered and don’t feel the need to prepare everything from scratch. Use items such as pre-prepared veg, salads, store cupboard items such as pre cooked rice, and even cooked whole roast chicken from the supermarket can make the ordeal of preparing a meal much quicker and just as nutritious.
- You are worthy of help, support and care too. Seek out something that brings you joy and do more of that!
If you would like to take the first small step on your own self care journey today, we can help.
Click here to find out more about Active8 – our 8 week small group course for the over 60’s.