Multi-Generational Family Vacations

Memorial Day has passed and here in the Midwest, it’s finally beginning to feel like summer is around the corner. When that heat hits (and you know it will), the last place I’ll want to be in August is the sweltering city. That means it’s time to make some vacation plans.

“Family Vacation” was once used to mean nuclear family, or parents and their children. But that’s changing. I’m an active member of the Sandwich Generation — I take care of both my children and a parent. I am not alone. According to AARP, 66 million Americans between the ages of 40-65 find themselves caring for multi-generation family members. Those responsibilities don’t end when I get a little down-time. Just as I would need to make arrangements for my childrens’ care if I vacationed without them, I must also arrange for my mother’s senior care in my absence. And while I guess I could make other arrangements, I also believe that my elderly mother would also like a change of scenery and an excursion to look forward to. I also know that at 84, she can’t travel as she did at 64, so I have to approach this vacation a little differently.

Tips for traveling with seniors are all over the internet. It’s one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. If you are a family caregiver considering multigenerational travel, here are some tips I’ve gotten.

Check with the doctor and discuss activity comfort levels.
Clearance from the family doctor is important. Are there any vaccinations needed? Are medications up to date? Set the level of activity to a safe one. If mom can’t climb to the edge of an inactive volcano, she shouldn’t. But if she can, why not do it?

Be realistic about expectations.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will you see it in one. I tend to push myself, and I remember the frustration of having to take a break every four hours for baby naps when the kids were young. The same time frame can hold true for seniors. Don’t overschedule and take frequent breaks.

Everyone gets Alone Time.
It’s very tempting to make grandma and grandpa the free babysitting service for nights on the town, but it should be everyone’s vacation. Enjoy the time together better by allowing for some time apart. Alone. That means seniors as well. If they’ve been leading a quiet life (I think I remember what that’s like), constant commotion of kids can be unnerving. But certainly take grandparents up on the offer and take advantage of a community of responsible adults.

Sometimes, you should just leave the planning to someone else. Cruise ships offer activities and entertainment suitable for all ages. Even Club Med, once the bastion of swingerdom, is getting in on the action by offering special deals and incentives catering to multigenerational family travelers.

I’m not sure if I’m crazy for giving this a go, but there’s no doubt we will all come away from this adventure with very special memories.

Adult Caregivers: The Sandwich Generation on the Rise

Adulthood continues to change from generation to generation. Expectations and reality differ from what our grandparents and parents experienced. And now, 39% of middle aged American population find themselves as a part of the Sandwich Generation—adults in their 40s or 50s who either take care of their parent 65 years and older and/or take care of their grown child.  This population increased 9% since 2010.

Caregivers who find themselves in this situation have more interest in seeking health information.  According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, caregivers, as opposed to non-caregivers, have more concern for consulting online reviews of drugs, getting information or support from others with the same condition, going online for a diagnosis, participating in online social activity related to health in the past year, getting information or support from friends and family and gathering health information online.

Technology proves to be a helpful tool in caregiving and managing juggling lives of the Sandwich Generation.  According to the Pew study, 59% of caregivers who use Internet access found the online resources to help them in caregiving.  Additionally, with technology advancing, Internet access becomes available virtually on almost all devices.  37% of the caregivers who own a cellphone report that they use their phone to look up health information online.  Having Internet on demand via cell phone helps seek out medical information whenever the caregiver needs it.  

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals caregivers, as opposed to other Internet users, as the majority of information seekers on all health topics in the study.  For example, 71% of online caregivers look online for information about a specific disease or medical problem, as opposed to 44%. Not surprisingly, 25% of online caregivers seek out information on caring of an again relative or friend as opposed to 7% of other Internet users. Caregivers using the Internet search for information on certain medical treatments or procedures, health insurance, food and drug safety and recalls, advertised drugs, medical test results and more.

Young caregivers find more value in Internet use than adult caregivers, naturally.  70% of young caregivers find online resources more helpful, compared to only 51% of older caregivers. Again, with technology evolving, caregiving will become easier, especially for those caring for their children and parents.

Caregiving demands time, emotional and physical strength and motivation.  The Sandwich Generation may find caregiving very difficult to manage in their lifestyle since most of these people are still in the workforce.  Finding Mom and Dad care can help alleviate the struggles of supporting two generations.  

Find senior care at Caregiverlist.  Seniors will be matched to their needs depending on what type of care they need, monthly budget, and, if applicable, special and unique needs.    

 

Experiencing the Sandwich Generation (Part II)

In this second of two blog posts, contributor Renata JL talks about saving your sanity and creating a balance while living in the Sandwich Generation.

My mother is an eighty-something year old widow who is relatively healthy and vital enough to live on her own. I started my family a little later in life, so my two children are still in elementary school. That means that I am, many times, caught in the middle, caring for both ends of my family’s generational spectrum. Most of the time, I like to think that I handle the pressures of care with efficiency and aplomb. But sometimes, especially during a health crisis, I find myself stretched pretty thin. And I know I’m not alone. Welcome to the world of the Sandwich Generation.

The term “Sandwich Generation” was first coined in by journalist Carol Abaya in 2006 to describe the growing segment of society simultaneously caring for both their children and their aging parents.

In a previous post, I wrote about my aging mother’s unexpected trip to the hospital and my subsequent scrambling to make sure all of my responsibilities would be met. It turns out her hospital stay (with its requisite daily visits) was not the ideal situation, but between Medicare and her insurance, the cost of her care was minimal and she had the around-the-clock attention she required. As her release date approached, we were aware that Medicare would pay for the first 20 days in a Skilled Nursing Facility, so with the help of the Caregiverlist’s Nursing Home Star Ratings system, we were able to find her a quality Nursing Home in her area. When those initial days are complete, the real challenges of being a member of the Sandwich Generation begin.

There is, of course, the financial stress involved with caring for my children and my parent, while planning for my own retirement. In this economy, I fully expect that I will need to help support my children for a longer time. Couple that with spiralling living costs, and I’m not sure how much I will have left over to help cover the costs of caring for mom, whether through the costs associated with Assisted Living or Senior Home Care. While the financial costs and responsibilities are fairly cut-and-dried, the emotional stress is the one that can really take its toll. Resentments can easily build between siblings dividing responsibilities, children losing the attentions of a parent to grandparent, and the senior realizing their diminishing independence. There are things that I plan to do to help prevent, or at least alleviate some of the stress involved with generational caring.

Here are some suggestions I found helpful:

Don’t Go It Alone
According to AARP, 29% of adult Americans spend 20 hours per week on caring for their parent(s). This growing demographic means and increased presence on the internet. Web sites catering to the Sandwich Generation abound. Look to them for ideas and support. Sites like sandwichgeneration.org, and AARP have a wealth of information about resources and support.

Talk About It
Gather family together, including children, parents, spouses. If you have siblings (even those living distantly), request that everyone participate in the plan of action. Communication is key and my help minimize or prevent feelings of resentment. Encourage everyone to voice their concerns and work together to find solutions.

Don’t Forget About You
If you are the primary caregiver for both children and parent(s), it may be difficult to carve out time for yourself, especially if you work outside the home as well. Although it may be difficult, you must treat the care you give yourself with as much gravity as the care you give to others. If you are fatigued, depressed or fall ill, you won’t be able to care for those around you. This one rings especially true because, as you know, we here at Caregiverlist are big advocates of “Caring for the Caregiver”.

The future will be demanding, I’m sure. I feel a little like I felt before giving birth, knowing that I would soon be entrusted to care for another human being and not sure if I was up to the task. That worked out somehow — some days are more demanding than others — but with the help of my family, my community and Caregiverlist’s resources, I hope to rise to the challenge of my new caregiver role with as much grace as I’m able to muster.

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We at Caregiverlist, along with the rest of the world, were deeply saddened by the December 14th, 2012 events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT. We offer our sincerest condolences to all those affected — family, friends, neighbors. This tragedy reminds us that, in the midst of all the challenges we face as part of the Sandwich Generation, we are truly lucky to have the ongoing opportunity to care for our loved ones.

Experiencing the Sandwich Generation (Part I)

In this first of two blogs, contributor Renata JL discusses the challenges faced by many like her — members of the Sandwich Generation.

My brother phones with the news that my mother’s been admitted to the hospital. She has the flu and I was going to visit her later in the day, after work, after the kids came home from school. My brother had (luckily) gotten there first. He’d found my mother disoriented and severely dehydrated, broken shards of glass around her bed. He’d cleaned her up enough to get her into the car and to the ER, where they promptly determined she’d need to be a guest of the hospital for at least a few days. The flu can be awful for anyone; at 82 it can be life-threatening.

My first reaction as I grab my coat to race to the hospital is one of gratitude that she’s going to be ok. She is in a safe place, being cared for by professionals. The second feeling is that of guilt. Why had I not gone to check on her earlier? I’d known she was sick. Was helping my son with his spelling words more important than my mother’s well-being? And then I think *expletive*, I’ve got to get someone to pick up the kids from school and do the grocery shopping I’d planned to do later that day. And what am I going to do about work? If I don’t work, I don’t get paid — my job doesn’t offer Paid Family Leave.

And so is the plight of the Sandwich Generation. The term “Sandwich Generation” was first coined in by journalist Carol Abaya in 2006 to describe the growing segment of society simultaneously caring for both their children and their aging parents (or other family members.) The combination of longer life-spans (the Journal of Financial Service Professionals finding shows tht at the beginning of the 20th century between 4% and 7% of people in their sixties had at least one parent still living. Today, that figure is nearly 50%) and later child-bearing has created a demographic whose parents are older while their children are still young. Combined with the phenomenon of smaller families (resulting in fewer siblings to bear the burden of care), those element can create a situation rife with stress, both financial and emotional.

According to AARP, 66 million Americans between the ages of 40-65 find themselves caring for multi-generation family members. The typical Sandwich Generation member is a 48-year-old woman. She maintains a paying job and spends an average of 20 hours a week providing care for a parent(s) and at least one child. And in these economic times, those children can be dependent for a much longer time.

While extended family care is not a new concept, the environment surrounding that care is completely different from historical care, as a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out. We no longer live in small villages, so care is not distributed throughout a community. In many instances, Americans are distance-caring for their parents. While I am fortunate to live in the same city as my mother, I have been living in denial. This latest health episode has shown me that changes need to be made. I’m not comfortable having my mother live alone with the sporadic support from her children. I think my sandwich just squeezed me a bit tighter.

Right now my mother and I both have time to assess our next steps. While she’s still in the hospital, she’s getting the care she needs. I arrange my schedule to see her every day, but my responsibilities are minimal. Her release is imminent, however, and I know I’m going to have to step up my game.

Next: How to best cope with the stress and that come with caring for a multi-generational family, and the resources available for support.

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