The impact of COVID-19 on the sandwich generation.
There’s no question: these are unprecedented times. We’ve faced massive lockdowns. We’ve experienced the greatest public health threat we’ve seen in more than a century. Nearly every aspect of our ordinary lives has turned upside down.
In a matter of mere months, COVID-19 has changed the way we work, the way our children learn, and the way we connect with our friends and loved ones.
It’s a lot. It’s a whole lot.
But when you’re a part of the sandwich generation, one of the millions of Americans faced with caring for young children and aging parents at once, pandemic living is often more than just a lot. For these caregivers, it’s simply too much.
The “sandwich generation” didn’t just emerge with the advent of the pandemic. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus, an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers were retiring every day, but that pace has accelerated dramatically since the pandemic began.
However, the pandemic hasn’t only compelled millions of seniors to retire earlier than they had expected, but also to rely far more heavily on their adult children for their needs. Seniors, for example, maybe depending on their adult children to perform routine errands that they might otherwise have taken care of themselves, from grocery shopping to prescription refills.
On top of their parents’ increased need, many caregivers are also facing the challenge of helping their young children with remote schooling. That means that belonging to the sandwich generation in the age of coronavirus involves stressors, worries, and responsibilities that most of us could never have imagined.
And, increasingly, those unprecedented responsibilities are falling on the shoulders of young adults, millennials who are just beginning to build their own families and careers. That’s putting caregivers of any age at substantial risk, not only to their physical and psychological well being but also to their social and financial health as well.
Studies show, for example, that 80% of caregivers report feeling overwhelmed, and 84% expect their retirement to be negatively impacted by the financial burdens of caregiving — that is if they can retire at all.
What is to be done?
If you find yourself stuck in the middle of the caregiving sandwich during these tough COVID times, just remember there is hope. You and your loved ones will make it through. But you can’t go it alone. You need support and you need a strategy.
For many caregivers, one of the hardest things to do is to learn how to delegate. But if you want to keep taking care of the ones you love, you first have to take care of their caregiver. If you don’t learn to delegate a share of the daily responsibility, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that the day will come when you have no choice, when you’re too sick or too burned out to keep going.
For example, you can enlist your kids for age-appropriate help with household chores and eldercare. At the same time, if you have a partner, make sure they’re doing their fair share of the caregiving and housekeeping duties. For help with your kids’ remote learning, consider tutoring services.
Best of all, you don’t have to pay a king’s ransom to do it. Maybe you have a friend or neighbor who happens to be an expert in history. Why not exchange their tutoring services for a pound of your world-famous peanut butter fudge or an iTunes gift card?
Telecommute like a boss
If you’re one of the estimated 33% of Americans who has made the transition to remote work in the face of the pandemic, odds are you know all too well what a balancing act it is to try to work from home while tending to parents and homeschooling kids. Again, this is where setting boundaries and delegating are key.
If you’re going to get through this with your health and your sanity intact, then you’re going to need a plan — and a dedicated workspace. There’s nothing like a closed door, after all, to signal you’re working and not to be disturbed. Additionally, establishing a clear schedule for your workday will help minimize distractions and disruptions, not just from the family, but from friends calling at all hours or stopping by for a socially distanced visit in the middle of the workday.
Enlist the experts
As a caregiver, one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your loved ones is to call in reinforcements when necessary. For instance, if a loved one has experienced COVID disease, or is at heightened risk of contracting it, then ensuring you’re prepared for potential medical emergencies is key. You can even take CPR classes and earn your CPR certification online!
It’s also important to recognize when your loved one has needs that you may be unable to meet. For example, if your loved one is a member of the LGBTQ community, they may have experienced traumas that require specialized care from mental health experts uniquely trained to serve the unique needs of the community. This is particularly true in such an extraordinary, and worrisome, time as this, when rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are soaring.
Belonging to the sandwich generation is not easy in the best of times, but during pandemic times, the challenges can feel insurmountable. However, it is possible to make it through these extraordinary times. What matters, above all, is to have a plan, learn to delegate, hold on to hope, and make sure that when you’re taking care of others, you don’t forget to take care of yourself.