Health Secondary Story

Sue Ann Says: You Can Defeat Sandwich Generation Burnout with These Practical Tips!

With Mother’s Day approaching, I was thinking how blessed I am to live near my children and grandchildren. I am looking forward to spending a relaxing day with them after a delicious brunch. Unfortunately, some women don’t get to relax on Mother’s Day because they have stepped into the role as the main family caregiver. Increasing numbers of women are finding themselves in the Sandwich Generation. The Sandwich Generation refers to parents who are caring for their own parents as well as their own children. The Pew Research Center released the statistic that nearly 47% of adults between the ages of 40 and 60 are caring for a child and a parent simultaneously.

Caregiving is Exhausting
The workload you face as a caregiver can be overwhelming, as you attempt to juggle the needs of each family member. Conflicting schedules, medical issues and household responsibilities can lead to frustration, anxiety and exhaustion.  When you are the compassionate caregiver you lose time for yourself, and in turn, your health suffers.

Lose the Guilt
Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN and eldercare expert hit the nail on the head when she told me about the guilt women feel in this position. “Women in this very difficult role often feel guilty, therefore any time spent on themselves, if any, is bogged down with unwarranted guilt. So first women need to realize guilt is a life draining emotion that has no place in caregiving. The incredible love it takes to take on caring for a parent or parents, especially when the woman is caring for her family is what guides her decisions so there is nothing to feel guilty about.”

Find Time for Yourself
Lisa Cruz from Appleton, Wisconsin is living this reality of being a Sandwich Generation caregiver. Lisa is a mother of four boys from one to 13 years old, and owns and operates a small business (Red Shoes PR, Inc. ®) with six employees. She is also the main support of assistance for her mom as well as her uncle. This is what she had to say about the Sandwich Generation: “Being part of the Sandwich Generation is extremely challenging and can be overwhelming. I have found out that taking time for myself in however I can is extremely important. I read often, as much as I can, even if it’s only for 20 minutes at a time. I go for massages at least once a month. And I have learned to cut myself some slack. I won’t always have the cleanest house but I will do my best to take care of those I love.”

Practical Tips
Finding those precious moments to relax or spend time with your significant other each day can be impossible. Knowing that many of you are in the Sandwich Generation, here are some healthy tips from professionals to guide you through this demanding time.

– Find time to exercise
Walk around the block. Do yoga on the patio. Work in the garden. Call a friend and go for a bike ride. Get out for a date and dance!

– Eat a healthy diet
Holistic nutritionist and wellness coach, Lisa Metzgar, weighed in with this piece of advice, “Eat a rainbow of color. Stress can cause oxidative stress in our cells, leading to less than optimal function. Eating a whole food diet consisting of fruits and vegetables in a wide array of color will ensure that your body is getting the antioxidants and nutrients to protect your cells and help keep you healthy.”

– Divide and Conquer Daily Chores
Even your young children can help with chores such as dusting or sweeping. Have the children practice their reading with grandpa. Can great-grandma teach the children to fold towels?  Let your teenager pick up bread and milk or run past the post office with the bills. When some of these small chores are shared by all, you will find some time for yourself.

– Use Humor to Brighten the Mood
Stressful situations don’t bring out the best in us. Did you burn the garlic bread because you were doing three things at once? Don’t get angry! Laugh about it!  Share jokes, pull out those silly pictures when you were little (haircuts are always worth a laugh) tickle your children, and give hugs. Use those facial muscles and smile!

– Share the Responsibilities with Siblings
Communicate with your siblings and see if they can watch mom or dad for a few hours or one night so you can get away. If your siblings live far away, can they contribute financially? They may send a gift certificate for a local restaurant if they know you are running on empty and need a break.

– Find local support groups.
The Wisconsin Aging Network offers local caregiver support programs and resources. A monthly or biweekly meeting with other women in the same situation can help your daily outlook. Obtain information online at  or phone 1-866-843-9810.

Don’t let the challenges of being a Sandwich Generation caregiver affect your health. Protect your physical and mental health first so you are available for your loved ones when they need you the most.

Because it all begins with a healthy woman…

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection of diseases that affect women the most; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-448-5148. 

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