December 15, 2011
It’s a three-way time pinch that leaves some mothers exhausted and feeling helpless: They have to work outside the home and take care of children and elderly parents. That’s when it’s time to call in reinforcements.
Q. I’m the mother of three teenagers who is working full time and trying to help care for my 80-year-old parents. I’m near the end of my rope. What can I do?
Know that you’re not alone. A study of social workers who provide services to sandwich generation women — those between the ages of 35 and 54 — found that nearly half say they delay getting help because they feel they should be able to shoulder caregiving responsibilities on their own.
Commissioned by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the report, “Not Ready for Prime Time: The Needs of Sandwich Generation Women, A National Survey of Social Workers” (press release online at http://www.helpstartshere.org/press-room/2008-sandwich-generation-release.html) explores the challenges faced by some 42 million American women who are sandwiched by the needs of their own children and their aging relatives.
Of the more than 1,400 social workers surveyed, the majority reported that sandwich generation women are not prepared for many aspects of their aging relatives’ care. Of the sandwich generation women who participated in a journaling project that was part of the study, nearly 24 percent say they didn’t know who to ask for help with day-to-day caregiving responsibilities.
“As our society’s demographics shift, older women will increasingly find themselves shouldering heavier caregiving burdens, but they don't have to do it alone,” said Pat Volland, director of NYAM’s Social Work Leadership Institute. “Unfortunately, there are barriers to seeking help because women think they should be self-reliant and able to handle it all. And they often don’t know that health professionals like social workers can help with daily stresses.”
Personal and home care aides, like those employed by the local Home Instead Senior Care® office, also are an option. Home Instead CAREGiversSM are screened, trained, bonded and insured. They can be hired for as little as three hours and up to 24 hours to provide companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping. These are many of the tasks that you probably are having trouble fitting into your schedule.
What’s even better is that home care aides are often seniors themselves who can relate to the interests and lifestyles of your parents.
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