September 23, 2022 Healthy Living

Strategies to Relieve Caregiving Stress for the Sandwich Generation

Have you noticed your caregiver responsibilities are taking up more and more of your time and to-do list? If you are feeling overwhelmed by the pinch of taking care of your kids while helping out with aging parents, you are not alone. Nearly half of all adults are caring for one or more parent, all while managing the emotional, financial, and time constraints of caring for their own family.

If you’re managing getting to your high schooler’s basketball game while also refilling your parent’s prescription on the way, you’re a member of the sandwich generation.

What is the Sandwich Generation?

The sandwich generation is named for individuals who are squeezed between caring for children and caring for aging parents. People in this group face unique physical and mental health challenges. After all, juggling work, parenting responsibilities, and coordinating care for an aging loved one is not easy.

Even if your parent does not need a lot of help, chores on their behalf can take a toll on your mental health and relationships. You may start to experience “caregiver burnout,” also known as “caregiver fatigue.”

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is general physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion in caregivers who are not getting the physical, emotional, or financial help they need from others. While caregiver burnout can look different from person to person, there are some things you should look out for:

  • New feelings of anxiety or symptoms of depression
  • Insomnia or other sleep troubles, such as sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep
  • New feelings of frustration, anger, or irritation
  • Getting sick more often or for longer periods of time
  • Weight gain, weight loss, or other changes in diet
  • Withdrawal from activities or spending time with friends and family
  • Using alcohol or drugs to manage stress and daily life

How to Reduce Caregiver Burnout

Almost every family caregiver will feel the effects of burnout at some point, but the symptoms don’t have to last long or cause serious issues. Taking care of yourself and establishing healthy boundaries will help prevent caregiver burnout.

Other strategies can include:

  • Ask for help from siblings or family members
  • Find a support group to attend regularly
  • Talk to your doctor about your caregiving role
  • Regularly attend therapy appointments with a counselor experienced in family caregiving dynamics

The truth is, that many adult children struggle to cope with the reality that their parents are getting older. Growing up, our parents may have conveyed strength, health, and control, giving us comfort that they would always be there for us. Noticing a decline in their health and taking on an additional caregiving role can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to your doctor about this potentially challenging change in your life.

To speak to a CDPHP representative about all the mental health care services available to you, contact the CDPHP Behavioral Health Access Center at 1 (888) 320-9584. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1 (800) 273-8255.

Some employers who self-insure may not have this benefit. If you are unsure if your plan includes this benefit, please contact CDPHP member services.

Alex Marsal Ph.D.
About the Author

Alex Marsal, Ph.D., is a co-founder and the Chief Clinical and Science Officer of aptihealth, inc., a behavioral health engagement company that uses technology to seamlessly deliver integrated physical and behavioral healthcare. In clinical practice, he specializes in providing psychotherapy services to people with dual-diagnosis, depressive and anxiety disorders, marital difficulties, and PTSD/abusive experiences.

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