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Family 411: Examining Parental Duties: Sandwich Generation
DAYTON -- More Americans than ever before are living in the so-called sandwich generation with responsibilities for children and at least one aging parent. The stress is taking its toll on the caregivers.
The Pew Research Center says nearly half of American adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent who's 65 or older, while either raising a young child, or financially supporting a grown child.
Dr. Julie Schaefer knows the burden of the sandwich generation. She has three sons, one in college, a mother with Alzheimer's, and a dad who often needs help taking care of her, and she admits, "It's very stressful."
Jenny MacDougall started caring for her parents while still working full-time as a teacher. She remembers, "as long as I was standing, I was available because my health was certainly better than theirs."
Her 92-year-old mother lives in a senior facility, but Jenny helps with her medicine, laundry, bathing and transportation several times a week. Maybel Lawson says, "She's given a lot of her time to taking care of me, and I'm very appreciative."
The National Center on Caregiving says 75% of sandwich generation caregivers are women. Most work full-time, and many routinely neglect their own needs. Dr. Schaefer adds, "they don't go to the doctor like they should. They don't exercise like they should." Julie's not just living it. In her medical practice she says, "I see a lot of patients with anxiety, insomnia."
Kathy Smith started a business after taking care of her parents and aunt. Seniors Resource Hub has checklists for choosing care facilities, and downsizing and moving.
Her E-Health repository puts all of a senior's medical information, contacts, even important documents together in one place, saving time at the doctor or hospital. Smith says, "They can hang it on a flash drive on their key chain."
Getting organized was a way for Kathy to manage her role as caregiver. She says, "Everybody seems to start from ground zero. You just make emotional decisions." She believes her tools help eliminate some of that. Jenny says a support network helped.
Despite the stress, these women treasure the time with loved ones.
Jenny's mother Maybel says, "I think I've been the beneficiary of how I raised her." Dr. Julie Schaefer says. "For me it's a way to pay them back for all they've done for me."
All three women say having a support network is crucial, and Dr. Schaefer says regular exercise is her number one way of fighting stress and anxiety. To get to the website for Seniors Resource Hub products, click http://seniorsresourcehub.com. For more information on resources for caregivers, click http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/news/depression_in_the_sandwich_generation.asp.
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