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  • Writer's pictureBy April Sage

Navigating the Role as the Caregiver's Caregiver

Updated: Apr 25

April Sage of PNW senior advisor in a green shirt with her arms crossed smiling in a hallway

Raise your hand if you believe you are someone's go-to problem solver. Don't be shy; no one is watching. Awareness is a gift; it gives us tools to work with. I believe I self-selected this role from a little girl, and I've always honored that the best I can. I am recently experiencing a new unofficial role as a caregiver’s caregiver in my familial construct. My job description includes being the primary go-to person for outside chores, climbing the barn roof to fix something, investigating concerns, making arrangements, and organizing schedules for my parents. Intuitively, I knew the day would arrive when I needed to help or give support when tragedy struck, but I did not anticipate it happening so soon. I didn’t consider how I would balance the needs of the family under my roof alongside the more demanding role in my parents' lives, especially the evolving needs of my stepdad. Although I do this professionally for families in varying circumstances, it continues to be an adjustment personally to prioritize everyone’s needs while balancing my own. During these times of growth and learning to show myself grace, I am compelled to share my journey as it unfolds.

Every day is a new adventure. For me, some days don’t require much support, but for my mom, the caregiver, there are daily concerns and the stress of navigating an issue that hasn’t occurred yet. Navigating the challenges for someone who needs constant care or oversight is a full-time job. Especially when what worked last time doesn’t always work the next time. I try to keep it lighthearted, but the truth is that 24/7 caregiving is physically and emotionally exhausting, especially for those in the inner circle.

As a bystander, the role of support can be hard to recognize. Do you know if you’re giving the right amount of support, what are the presumed responsibilities, or how can we support those who care for our loved ones 24/7 if we don’t live close? Start by having an open dialogue with the people directly affected by the challenges. A caregiver’s role can be overwhelming and expecting them to reach out for help is a high expectation for someone who has their hands more than full. Consider what simple things you can do to fill the holes and offer support.

I am now part of the sandwich generation, a group responsible for raising their children and caring for their aging parents. For the 23% of U.S. adults in the same situation, here are suggested coping mechanisms and strategies to further dial in how to handle the ever-changing needs of multiple generations affected.

  1. Share your schedule. It is a simple but necessary step to communicate your availability with someone who is depending on you for problem-solving. It’s a smoother transition when everyone understands your availability, including your vacation schedule and typical daily routine.

  2. Lots A Helping Hands is a great app for group support management, such as caregiving. You can share the status of a loved one's journey, volunteer shift sign-ups, or a meal train all in one spot.

  3. Be flexible. The role of a caregiver’s caregiver means you are the go-to person, putting more pressure on your daily schedule. Be flexible and plan to incorporate daily tasks such as checking in or surprise requests into your regular routine to lower stress.

  4. Take time for yourself. Be aware of your stress levels and allow yourself time to breathe, rest, and care for your needs. Self-care isn't just massages and manicures. Quiet time is self-care.

  5. Journal. Journal. Journal. I find that capturing my thoughts and feelings serves to work feelings and frustrations out. I can tell a noticeable difference when I write my thoughts down.

Now is the time to act. We can’t predict when a tragedy or health concern will happen, but we can plan the necessary next steps to avoid an emergency. If your aging loved ones have semi-regular health issues, this is the time to start discussions.

As an active planner, I can guide you through the tough scenarios and facilitate the hard-hitting questions to create a plan of action with the resources for the next level of care for the next chapter of your loved one’s life. There is no blueprint for dealing with a challenging diagnosis or watching loved ones change before our eyes. I sit with families in times of crisis and need to provide support during major shifts in life. These changes are emotional and exhausting. It’s my honor to provide solutions that support families in transition. If there's anything I can do to be a guide, please reach out. It is an honor to serve.

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