Sandwich Generation

sandwichGeneration

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The alarm rings out like an electronic fog horn as you struggle to right yourself in bed, moving as quickly as possible to make your way to the bathroom; your shower is long enough to sing the first half of Don’t Stop Believing by Journey; you’re dressed in 15 minutes thanks to having laid your clothes out the night before ….

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Finds you rushing to get your kids out of bed and gently encouraging them to shower and dress quickly as you prepare their breakfast and place the lunch you prepared for them the previous evening into their lunch bags …

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You rush kid #1 off to school and drop them off leaving you 10 minutes to maneuver through city traffic and get kid #2 to their school by 0650h; only problem is that you’re met with resistance as he doesn’t want to get out of the car (spelling bee day!) …

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As you pull into the garage at work, your mobile phone ring tone alerts you that it’s your mother calling; even at this early hour she’s concerned that you might not drop her prescription medication off later in the day and wants you to reassure her you haven’t forgotten; of course you spend time calming her anxiousness …

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Rushing into the office, 20 minutes past your normal SOW, you read an email from the boss informing you about a meeting scheduled later in the day and reminding you about a project that’s due by the end of the day …

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Your spouse calls to remind you the mortgage payment is due today as are both your kids’ AYSO fees …

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You run into an old classmate who describes how busy their life has become. You find yourself pondering how much older he looks today compared to a year ago; you begin thinking about just how busy TODAY is going to be … just how busy EVERYDAY seems to have become …

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Right as you feel you’re “in the zone” and making good progress on the project due later today, your sister calls concerned about your mom’s medical condition and reminds you to swing by the pharmacy; you wonder to yourself, having heard from your mom and sister in the same morning if there’s something you’re missing? …

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You leave work and rush to pick-up your kids from the afterschool program; good news – the AM reporter says traffic’s not stopped, only crawling this evening …

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As it’s kinda on your way, you elect to swing by the pharmacy and pick up your mom’s prescription before getting the kids. Oh what a surprise, even though it was called in the day before, it’s still not ready and you have to wait 15 more minutes while they fill it … (good time to check your blood pressure in that contraption next to the consultation desk!)

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In the meanwhile, you call your spouse, who has thankfully picked-up your kids, and ask “what’s for dinner?”

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Your mom calls yet again, she sounds anxious and a bit confused, she wants to make sure your bringing her prescriptions over tonight; you reassure her it’s in hand while she continues to lecture you about how important her medication is …

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You finally arrive at your mother’s house where you are greeted as some sort of returning war hero; before she can hug you she’s asking if you brought her medication with you. Your reassurance is met with great joy. To your disappointment and her dismay, you’ve only brought one medication and she was expecting two … it’s back to the pharmacy for you …

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With barely a second to catch your breath, you dial up your spouse to let them know you will be home late as you learn your kid’s complaining he’s both hungry and has a tummy ache at the same time …

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You’ve made it back to the pharmacy, picked up the second medication for your mom and driven back to her house to drop it off. Your all-so-appreciative mom thanks you and yearningly implores you to stay and spend more time with her … you just can’t and hurry home to see your kids and spouse …

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As you arrive home, feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, you reflect as you walk toward the front door that as crazy as today has been, it seems like so many other days, weeks, and months before!

Welcome to the Sandwich Generation!

If any of the above sounds familiar, you may be a part of the sandwich generation and you are not alone. An estimated 44,000,000 families in the U.S. now find themselves in this situation.  The sandwich generation is people who care for their aging parents, are raising their own children while trying to maintain some sense of independence and intimate relationship with their spouse.

The “typical” sandwiched caregiver is 35-64 years of age, employed full time, has two kids and dedicates 10-20 hours each week caring for their aging parents for an average of eight years.  They often spend tens of thousands of dollars raising their own kids and more money assisting their parents.  Being a part of the sandwich generation can have a significant impact on one’s overall quality of life. Some of the most common problems voiced by members of the sandwich generation include: having an impact on financial obligations, creating a strain on personal relationships, decreased free time, increased pressure with occupational responsibilities and scheduling, and increased medical and mental health problems.  Learning to manage the stress often associated with the responsibilities that come at you from both ends is important and possible.

What Can You Do?

First Identify stressors

What events or situations trigger stressful feelings?  Are they related to any or a combination of your children, family health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?

Deal with stressors directly

Try and put things in perspective by prioritizing and delegating responsibilities.  Identify ways your family and friends can lessen your load so that you can take a break.  Try setting boundaries and saying no to less important tasks.

Deal with stress in healthy ways

Engage in healthy, stress-reducing activities.  Taking a short walk, exercising, listening to music, talking things out with friends or family or playing with your children and reduce your stress and improve mood.  Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change … it may be best to Identify one behavior at a time to change.

 Take care of yourself

Find the right personal balance of healthy eating, sleep and exercise.  Utilize the resources at had as well as the information on our BlueLIFE website to help develop a good strategy of self-care and balance.  See if you can’t work in a one-on-one “date night” with your spouse or the ever-so-rate evening with good friends.  Either way, ensure that it is time you feel energizes you.

 Use professional support 

Talking to understanding family and friends can improve your ability to persevere during stressful times. Remember there are numerous, free services available to you and your family through the Department and there are often community resources available to help your aging parents. You may want help thinking through your options or dealing with the stress of the situation.  Contact BSS at 213-252-3090 or the employee assistance program MHN; for help managing financial challenges, contact the LAPD Financial Counseling Team at 818-906-2230.

For information on the Family Medical Leave Act or on family caregiving, click on the icons below.

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If the situation is, or has the potential to affect your work performance, communicate some of what’s going on with your supervisor and explore whether there are flexible work options or alternatives. Remember, the ingredients of a sandwich can be quite stressful, but you do not always have to be a “Hero” Sandwich.

-by Dr Adam Herdina