The Caregiver’s Toll
We raise our kids and then shout a “Halleluiah” as we become empty nesters, but our job as parents really never ends. Our adult kids are still kids in many ways—whether they live with us or not. And then there are our parents, whose needs inevitably grow as time marches on. Whether it be physical, mental, emotional, relational, financial, or a combination of the above; it can quickly become the primary focus in your life.
A basic truth as told by those who are in the thick of it: It can take a toll on your own life. Trying to balance being a parent, grandparent, and parent to your parents (often while you still have a career and a life of your own), simply put, is A LOT!
There is tremendous attention given to the financial aspect of being in the sandwich generation, as there should be. The numbers are astonishing in regard to how deeply these years can affect your own future and retirement if you aren’t careful. However, there is another aspect that needs attention – your health and wellbeing.
Caring for others is a blessing, but can quickly become a daunting task. Too many times we have seen the caregiver’s health fail suddenly and rapidly after a little time passes.
I want to tell you about Sally. Her father passed away when her mother was still healthy and could live independently, but her mother was grieving. Every day she called Sally with just little things, and of course, Sally would go out of her way to help Mom. Sally’s brothers lived across the country and were able to help Mom from a financial aspect, but Sally found her mother was slowly choosing to be less and less independent.
Then it happened: Her mother fell. After surgery, she simply wasn’t the same. The daily little things were now big things and the timing for Sally was rough. She just had her third grandchild and truly loved keeping those babies a couple times a week to help her daughter. Sally was also in her best earning years with a goal set to retire in another five years with her husband. They had worked really hard to be able to use these last years to sock away every penny they could towards that goal. Then there was her son who had just come home from his seven-year college saga with no job and no prospects. He was literally living in the basement. And there was her younger daughter who was engaged to be married to a wonderful young man…in nine months.
Life was busy, and Sally found herself giving generously to everyone but herself. Six months into this “revised” life of taking care of mom, career, son, grandkids, and an impending wedding started to take its toll. Sally went to the doctor for some random health issues which had started to pop up. Her doctor urged her she to stop and start helping herself, but this just wasn’t Sally’s nature. Sally had a stroke a week before the wedding. The caregiver was now the one needing care.
Professional athletes hire trainers and work extensively on their flexibility and week points. They fuel their bodies with a tailored diet, they increase their oxygen supply, and spend a lot of time on recovery techniques. Everything they do is methodical.
I would be willing to bet that the kind of stress Sally was putting on her body and mind was even higher than that of a professional athlete. Yet, I would also hazard a bet that Sally or most people in Sally’s position are not doing an “nth” of what a professional athlete does to mitigate the stress on his/her body.
Our minds and bodies are not invincible. Extreme situations call for extreme care…. for our ourselves. Sally went from hero to zero. I can only imagine the regret of not putting on her oxygen mask, not saying no, and not saying help.
There is a great book called Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life. It is hard to say no to those we love, but we won’t be able to say yes if we don’t learn to.
Give yourself permission. Take care of yourself. Love yourself first so that you can love others. And if you need help… just ask. That is why we are a Life Planning Firm—we are here to help you live Life on Purpose!