University of South Alabama

Those with multiple family caregiving responsibilities are often referred to as the "sandwich generation," a generation that not only works, but also cares for their young children and for their aging parents simultaneously.

Dr. Shyla Reddy, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of South Alabama, said it is important for these adults to learn how best to manage both their family and work responsibilities.

"As aging parents become unable to care for themselves, they become more and more dependent on family or friends," Dr. Reddy said. "This is a tough situation that can be very stressful for family members."

Dr. Reddy, who specializes in geriatric medicine, sees many elderly patients who are beginning to show signs of dependency - they have trouble going to the grocery store or doing simple household tasks.

Often times, the elderly begin to feel like they are putting heavy burdens on others when requiring assistance. "Providing a strong family support to your aging parents will help them cope with functional decline," Dr. Reddy said.

When you have an aging parent that is becoming dependent, Dr. Reddy said the family needs to know how to assist the parent. At the same time, they need to know how to overcome the stresses associated with providing assistance so it does not negatively affect their well-being.

For those who are dealing with the stresses of multiple caregiving, Dr. Reddy recommends looking into community resources first, such as senior companion programs and home health aides. In addition, she suggests researching educational services and support networks that are available for family members, which can provide much-needed knowledge and advice on multiple caregiving.

Other recommendations include seeking emotional support from family, friends and coworkers. "If you have siblings, organize and divide up your time to provide assistance," Dr. Reddy said. "Consider joining a support group or a stress management program. You need to learn how to balance your tasks so you do not become overwhelmed."

According to Dr. Reddy, the most important thing you can do when dealing with heavy responsibilities is to take care of yourself first. "There are community networks available for you, and it's very important that you make time for those resources," she said. "You must take care of yourself first in order to be prepared both physically and emotionally to take care of others."

For more information on caregiving, visit http://www.healthinaging.org/public_education/eldercare/.

 

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