Could this be YOU?
Your parent has dementia. They’re becoming increasingly frail and vulnerable and really need your support, which you’re very happy to give. But your children also need you. They might be young and healthy but they’re vulnerable in other ways and when you’re not around, they notice. You find yourself constantly asking yourself; who should come first? What can I do to keep everyone happy?
Sandwich carers are sometimes grandparents as well. Some have children who are technically adults (aged over 18) but still need emotional and/or financial support. Some sandwich carers live with, or very near, the person they’re caring for, and others live hundreds of miles away.
3 facts worth knowing
- Sandwich carers are mainly women with children aged under 25 who live at home and provide care for older people in their family
- More than 40 per cent of sandwich carers are struggling financially or are ‘at breaking point’
- 70 per cent of sandwich carers say it has affected their emotional wellbeing, 66 per cent say it has affected their physical health
Source: Centre for Policy on Ageing
The biggest challenge you will face as a sandwich carer is learning to balance the needs of the younger and older generation, whilst not forgetting your own needs too.
How you might feel
* Torn between conflicting priorities
* Tested by both generations
* Tired by the constant demands on your time and energy
Being a sandwich carer: what can help
his is such a complex and varied role that there are no hard and fast rules, however there are ways to lighten the load
Lose the brave face, drop the stiff upper lip. Share how you feel with someone you trust, whether that’s a partner, a friend, a relative, or a professional. They might not be able to make everything better, but if they listen carefully, you will feel better for it.
You can’t do everything. Sit down and work out what’s absolutely essential and what isn’t. Focusing on your main priorities will help you to use the time you have more effectively and stop you feeling quite so overwhelmed.
If you’re in paid employment and have been in the same job for at least 26 weeks, you have a right to request flexible working. This could mean reducing your hours, working flexi-time, job sharing or working from home. It’s definitely worth talking to your boss.
Ask more of others
Look around you, could other family members take on more responsibilities? If your children are old enough, could they do more to help? Start by having a serious conversation with them, explaining that you need more co-operation. Keep it age appropriate. For example, a younger child could help by keeping their bedroom tidy and putting their toys and clothes away. Older children could take on some of the household chores, teenagers could prepare meals etc.
Don’t feel guilty about asking them to do more…it’s good for them. You’re teaching them some valuable life skills and the importance of team work.
Your changing relationships as a sandwich carer
Your relationship with your parent will inevitably change as their dementia progresses; you may find their increasing needs make them more dependent on you and this, in turn, makes you feel increasingly protective of them. This shift from child to adult, and eventually into a more parental role, is usually slow but nevertheless challenging.
Your relationship with your children is also changing. They’re growing up, becoming more independent. They still need you but no longer rely totally on you, and eventually even their subtler needs will fall away.
Valuing your new relationships
It’s not all doom and gloom. Whilst sandwich carers might find their social life is impacted quite severely, they can sometimes find an improvement in some of their relationships, particularly with the person they care for. Spending more time together, learning to prioritise what’s important and live in the moment, (rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past) can, it seems, bring a new closeness they hadn’t counted on – and one that is usually most welcome.