Surviving Eldercare: 6 Tips for the Sandwich Generation

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 1.44.58 PMBy Carol-Ann Hamilton

Here are some alarming statistics.

According to a recent Statistics Canada census (figures globally will be equivalent, anywhere burgeoning elder populations exist):

The number of seniors who live with relatives and non-relatives in private dwellings is 393,150 – up from 285,370 only a few years’ previously;

Twenty-five percent of those aged 45 to 64 (the so-called Sandwich Generation) have children living at home and perform some form of eldercare;

Fifteen percent of those workers must take time off from their job to care for aging relatives.

Juggling multiple competing demands is tough at the best of times.  You’re already split umpteen ways daily through your employment or business, significant other, children, grandchildren, home and/or car maintenance, your health and tons more.

You’re not alone.

Exponentially compound these exhausting imperatives if you have impossible or even difficult-to-manage parents.  Many days, it feels like being the soggy middle in a burnt (out) triple-decker grilled cheese – and that’s no bologna.

Beneath the surface turmoil, you wish in your core to:

Locate a way to successfully navigate your elder relationships even if nerve-wracking;

Bring forth your highest compassionate efforts so the best for all concerned is attained;

Rest in the tranquility of having done everything possible to ease your folks’ transitions.

What attitudes and actions will keep me grounded?

You need solutions and support – now!  I invite you to engage with these six tips to gain more than a fraction of internal serenity.

Tip #1: Trust the process.  What might first seem irreconcilable can break through wondrously. Evidence my 86-year-old father’s obstinacy regarding his “hoarders on steroids” home.  Once my mother passed, he suddenly opened to my cleaning and garden support.

Tip #2: Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity.  The coaching term, “extreme self-care,” doesn’t equal selfishness!  Nurturing yourself is analogous to donning your oxygen mask first in an airline emergency.

Tip #3: Reframe your thoughts and attitude.  Impatience incites crankiness.  How about readying for contentious phone calls or visits as if you were preparing for a critical boss or client meeting?  Steady yourself.  Operate with facts.  Listen before speaking.

Tip #4: Maintain your power.  No one can pinch your competence without permission.  Grace under pressure lowers everyone’s stress levels.  Don’t let exasperating aging folks victimize you. They’re the ones who now need parenting, and not the other way around.

Tip #5: Feel all your feelings.  As if it were realistic to always feel positive toward the recalcitrant pair!  Ultimate healing from sustained pressure depends upon it.  You need not demonstrate Mother Teresa dedication to prove you’re a good son or daughter.

Tip #6: Understand what elders are actually going through.  QTIP stands for: Quit Taking It Personally.  Your folks’ “naughty” behaviors aren’t necessarily about you.  What if they’re essentially afraid of dying?  The unknown beckons.  They resist the vulnerability.  Allow them to drone on about glory days.  Their tired old stories may be all they feel is left.

Please accept my parting encouragements.

If there were only one message I offer you today, it would be this.  Senior care is an unequivocally draining marathon.  Just when you think you can’t take another step, you will find the strength.  It’s hard to believe right now.  At the anguished height over my father’s unremitting negativity, I doubted my very survival.  I prevailed.

Growing numbers of Sandwich Generation members experience your despair.  We’re in this together.  You have my earnest empathy and unbridled support.

About Carol-Ann Hamilton: 

Through Spirit Unlimited, Carol-Ann Hamilton is a transformational coach, speaker and author of the recently published, Coping with Un-cope-able Parents: LOVING ACTION for Eldercare. Watch for her blog, workshops and interviews as she shares hilarious plus poignant parental lessons to support those stressed and sandwiched between challenging aging parents and multiple competing priorities. You can reach her at

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