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September 18, 2007 > Raising Kids While Caring for Elderly Parents Can Be Overwhelming

Raising Kids While Caring for Elderly Parents Can Be Overwhelming

Washington Hospital Discussion Group Focuses on Sandwich Generation

Are you raising kids while caring for elderly parents? Meeting the demands of your immediate family can be overwhelming enough, let alone worrying about the needs of your aging parents or in-laws.
"It's a big challenge, especially for women who had kids later in life," said Susan Rhodes, a marriage and family therapist who will be facilitating an upcoming discussion group at Washington Hospital titled, "Surviving the Sandwich Generation: Managing the Stress of Children, Midlife and Aging Parent Responsibilities."
Part of the monthly Midlife Transitions Discussion Group for women, the session is scheduled for Tuesday, September 25, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Washington Hospital Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. For more information or to reserve a space, call (510) 608-1356.
The sandwich generation refers to those people who are "sandwiched" between children they are still raising and their aging parents who need care. About 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 45 and 55 have aging parents or in-laws as well as children under age 21, according to the AARP.
While not a new phenomenon, changing demographics have increased the burden for many. As life expectancy increases, so does the number of middle-aged people whose parents are still alive. Combine that with the fact that people are having children later in life, so their own children are still young when their parents reach old age. In addition, the majority of caregivers are women, and today most women work, increasing the pressure on them.
"If you had kids in your late 30s or 40s, you could have toddlers and parents who are in need of care," Rhodes said. "If you're middle-aged, you could even be having your own health issues while dealing with these family care issues."
Rhodes will facilitate the group discussion, answer any questions, and help participants learn more about stress management, which is the key to survival.
"Let's face it, being the caretaker of both our kids and our parents is stressful," Rhodes said. "Stress takes a toll on everything - our health, relationships, happiness, everything."

Take Care of Yourself

To effectively manage stress, it's important to take good care of yourself. That means eating right, getting plenty of rest, exercising when possible, and taking time out.
"Stress management is all about taking time for yourself, even if you can only get away for 20 minutes a day," Rhodes said. "You need alone time away from your responsibilities, or you won't be much use to anybody."
Getting away is difficult when you have young children and/or very sick parents. But there are steps you can take to incorporate positive habits into your daily life so that you establish a pattern of being able to take care of yourself.
Rhodes will share some of her own personal experiences with the group. She and her husband earned their master's degrees at the same time while they both worked full-time and raised two children.
"I know what it's like to feel overwhelmed by the demands of kids and family," she said.
It's important for women to communicate their needs with their partners and enlist the support of other family members. Setting priorities and making sure your expectations are reasonable also helps.
"The house doesn't have to be spotless," Rhodes said. "It's alright if laundry sits in the basket an extra day. Decide what the key priorities are and don't worry about the rest."
To learn more and talk with other women who are facing similar challenges, attend the next Midlife Transitions Discussion Group on September 25. For more information or to reserve a space, call (510) 608-1356.
For more information about other Washington Hospital programs and services, visit www.whhs.com.

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