For many reasons, some women are becoming moms later in life. And there are many benefits to that, from financial stability to being emotionally ready for parenting. But as a generation of moms have kids later and people live longer, it means more and more moms are finding themselves in the so-called “Sandwich Generation,” aka caretaking for small children and aging parents at the same time.
“Being young and coping with caregiving is a growing phenomenon. According to a report by AARP, as of 2020, approximately 24% of caregivers in the United States are Millennials (defined as individuals aged 18-34). This proportion is expected to increase as the baby boomer generation ages,” notes Rachael Piltch-Loeb, PhD, MSPH, a NYC-based mom of two little boys (3.5 and 11 months). Her own father recently passed from Alzheimer’s after being diagnosed with the early onset version at just 58; he passed three years after the diagnosis.
“The caregiving experience for me and my immediate family (adult brother and sister and our mom) was life-changing. I didn’t know how deeply impacted by my dad’s illness I would be, but it was stark just how unexpected it was to experience this change in my support system as I was learning to be a real professional and parent myself,” says Rachael, who is an assistant professor at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and appointed at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.
How common Rachael’s experience is the reason why The Local Moms Network is partnering with LOOP, a virtual community for seniors offering stimulating classes, events and even community (including the LOOP Café, where members can eat together!). From art and exercise classes to evening concerts, LOOP will change the way your loved ones spend their days—and allow you to take care of them, and yourself, more easily.
Ready to try LOOP? Use code LocalMom for a 30-day free trial.
Here are 5 ways to survive, and thrive, during this busy time:
Let Go of Expectations
Like many members of the Sandwich Generation, Rachael experienced grief as part of her journey with her dad, even before his passing. “My siblings hadn’t yet finished school or gotten married. We had to come to terms that our dad wasn’t going to be there for things we had envisioned he would be a part of,” says Rachael.
It can feel especially unfair as a young mom to see fellow new moms receiving help from younger or healthier parents—and that’s understandable. But try to focus on appreciating whatever role a grandparent can play in a child’s life, and know that you aren’t alone in this new generation of double-caretaking.
Use Online Tools
Creating new experiences that are enjoyable for everyone is key. For instance, if Grandpa or Grandpa can’t get to a zoo or theatre easily, a virtual class like Animal Tales (where they can join their grandkids in observing adorable animals) or taking in a classical music concert, can be fun for all ages. “Electronic programming was critical for dad especially during the early days of the pandemic,” notes Rachael.
Create a Community Beyond You
“One of the challenges for people with cognitive decline is social isolation,” notes Rachael. “That isolation can contribute to mental atrophy because it’s hard to keep up cognitive skills if there is no one to talk to and no routine for interaction,” she adds. Of course, daily visits from children and grandchildren are ideal, but connecting with others through LOOP (whether inside or outside of your family) can take the burden off of physically getting together.
“Join them for a few classes and demonstrate that this is a fun activity that there are people they like outside of you, activities they can engage in from home. You are helping them see that there is a world beyond you and chances are they won’t look back and you will get some time back in your life,” says Betsy Vargas, Certified Life Coach & Vice President of Communications for LOOP. As your parent’s personal friendship circle gets smaller, adding the interaction through 130 classes and events from LOOP can fill that socializing void.
Ask for Specific Help
Doing it all can’t really be done—at least not for the longer-term. While you can prioritize your responsibilities and build boundaries (aka maybe not saying yes to everything at work, the kids’ schools and home), asking for help from the rest of your family is essential.
“While there can obviously be some degree of selfishness in others, those who don’t step in sometimes assume you’ve got it all covered or that they would disrupt your flow,” says Betsy. Ask for help with specific tasks—or if your budget allows, outsource some of them. Simply asking a family member to join the parent in a LOOP class can be a way to take your caretaking responsibilities off your shoulders for a day.
“Whether by nurture or nature, women take care of things and people. And yet attending to our own needs rarely makes the cut when it comes to priorities within the family; particularly when you have caretaking responsibilities up (aging parents), down (kids) and let’s face it, sideways (partners),” says Betsy.
By outsourcing some of a parent’s stimulation and socializing using tools like LOOP, caretakers can take the time to do what sustains them—including meeting their own basic needs like eating healthy meals, exercising and making it to their own doctor’s appointments.
Self-care for seniors and caretakers is an area LOOP specializes in. Says Betsy: “Meeting your aging parent on one of LOOP’s meditation classes is one of the best things you can do. You have the accountability of being there for your parent (something you might not do for yourself) and you’re both getting the benefit of the meditation.”
Ready to try LOOP? Use code LocalMom for a 30-day free trial.
Stayed tuned for more from Rachael Piltch-Loeb, PhD, MSPH, who is writing a book tentatively titled The Millennial Caregiver. And to learn more about Loop and start a free trial, go to theloopvillage.com.
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