Nearly 10 million boomers are now raising kids while at the same time, caring for at least one aging parent, according to the Pew Research Center reports. The term "Sandwich Generation" is used to describe this demographic – and lots has been written on it.
But what is not as frequently discussed, is that the strategies and techniques that are effective when caring for parents are very different from those that work well with children.
Here are 10 ways that caring for parents differs from caring for children:
Emotions come into play in both caregiving scenarios, but the emotions are often different. Whereas raising a child is filled with moments of joy and satisfaction, caring for your parents is often accompanied by feelings of sadness and even denial. "You grew up being taken care of by your parents. Now, you're taking care of them. People tend to underestimate how emotional that role reversal can be," says Andrea Cohen, CEO of HouseWorks home care. "It brings up emotions that people didn't think about; that they're not prepared for." The key is to talk about how you're feeling with family and friends, or with a qualified therapist.
Children live with you from the moment they leave the hospital, usually until they go away to college. But with aging parents, the logistics are clearly different. There may be a move involved. Or, the caregiver must think through how they will coordinate care for a family member who lives out of town, or even state. There are many different living options to consider, and so many issues that arise. For instance, most elderly do not want to leave their home, even if living there unassisted is no longer safe. The caregiver may not be aware of what's really going on, because it's typical for elderly to mask problems or symptoms, for fear of being forced to leave their home.
"Debating a child is a far cry from debating your parent," Cohen says. "It's hard to argue with a parent who you've been parented by all your life." Cohen has several recommendations if your parent is "fighting you tooth and nail." One solution is to work with a geriatric care manager, who can assess the situation and make recommendations. Often, parents will listen to an objective third parent before they listen to their child – even though you have their best interests in mind. For the same reason, asking your parent's doctor to speak with them can be helpful. Another technique Cohen recommends: Having a conversation with your parents early on – in their 60s, versus in their 70s or 80s.