The Sandwich Generation

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

By Lisa Daly, Occupational Therapist, OT Reg. (Ont)

Double duty. It’s a familiar role for people who are raising children and caring for their ageing parents.  This group of people – often referred to as the Sandwich Generation – are people that I meet often in my work as an Occupational Therapist.

Are you a part of the Sandwich Generation? Do you juggle drives to and from soccer practice, homework, and sleepovers, while taking your parents to the doctor, helping them with grocery shopping, and providing extra home support? Not to mention your own work responsibilities and hobbies.

You are not alone. Statistics Canada estimates that 30% of people aged 45 to 64 are caring for their parents, while also raising children under the age of 25.(1)

Staying safe while at home.

If your parents are like many of the clients I work with, they are still living independently, and would like to remain in their own home as long as possible. This can create added stress for people in double-duty caregiving role.

I have come up with few things to look out for, as well as some possible solutions to help make things easier for you, while keeping your parents healthy and safe.

What to look for – Nutrition:

  • Check out their refrigerator. Look for nutritious food in the fridge and check the expiry dates of both fresh and frozen foods. This could indicate difficulty grocery shopping, decreased initiation to eat and/or cook, and a lack of understanding about food safety

Possible solutions:

  • Consider having prepared meals delivered to your parents’ house a few days per week.
  • Many grocery stores now have a “Click and Collect” option where shopping can be completed online and picked up by car at the store.
  • Work with a nutritionist to help your parents identify easy-to-prepare and nutritious meals.

What to look for – Clutter:

  • Cluttered rooms, hallways, and stairs can make it difficulty for your parents to move easily and safely around the home, especially if they have a mobility device like a walker.

Possible solutions:

  • Declutter your parents’ house. Consider a cleaning service if this is financially possible.
  • Remove area rugs that are easy to trip over.

What to look for – Isolation:

  • Are your parents no longer engaging in activities with friends or participating other community outings? The reason behind increased social isolation could be difficulty accessing the community.

Possible solutions:

  • Explore assistive devices like walkers, canes, or scooter.
  • Research public transportation options like buses, or ParaTranspo.
  • Consider taking taxis if this is financially feasible.

What to look for – Poor hygiene

  • Noticed unwashed hair and a decrease in hygiene standards?

Possible solutions

  • Assistive devices like a long-handled sponge, or even shampoo and soap that comes with a pump.
  • Explore installing grab bars in the bathroom, or a bath seat in the bottom of the tub.

Remember that it can hard for ageing parents to admit that they are struggling, and harder still for them to accept help. Also, assistive devices can be awkward and will take getting used to – patience is key.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For you. For your parents. For your children.

If you are not sure where to start, call an Occupational Therapist. We have the skills to assess your parents’ home, leisure activities, and personal care and can make recommendations to help them live more happily, more safely.

1. Statistics Canada Survey, 2004