WASHINGTON, July 1, 2013 ― Baby Boomers can often feel that some of their “freedom” is getting lost while dealing with extended family issues. Boomers are sandwiched between their aging parents, adult children, and oftentimes grandchildren as well, where they frequently experience the “stress of generations.” .
It’s wonderful that we are all living longer. Hopefully, we will remain healthy enough to enjoy this longevity. But responsibility and love can often direct much of what we spend our time doing with this extra life.
Some of the issues that clients mention concern elder parent issues, something that I am experiencing myself.
A frequent topic in our discussions: where should elderly parents live when they can no longer appropriately care for themselves? Follow-up: What type of housing or lifestyle is appropriate?
Choices include staying in place with appropriate outside assistance, independent living facilities, assisted living, or nursing homes, all of which are viable options.
Unless elderly parents are going to be moving in with one of their Boomer children. And if more than one child, and if those children live in distant locations from one another, where does the parent choose to locate?
The next major issue involves finances. What finances are available? Does the parents have long-term care insurance to help defray the costs? If not, what choices exist? Check all options and look into all possibilities and scenarios that may arise.
Educate and inform yourself as much as possible knowing that despite knowledge, there is an emotional journey for all involved and it can be considerable. This can be a surprisingly thorny family issue.
One thing you simply cannot prepare for is when your parents start to change, mentally, physically or both. With those changes your grieving process for their eventual loss begins.
Personally, having moved my mother to Maryland to be near me, I now see her a lot more often which is wonderful even as seeing her decline is hard. So no matter how prepared for this you think you are, be aware that the emotional connection and slow or even sudden disconnection with a parent is something you just can’t prepare for adequately, particularly on short notice.
There are some advance preparations you can undertake. First, keep communication lines open among family members and have family and friends as allies or support systems.
Next, begin to build your resilience “muscle.” The more you build it the stronger it gets. Resilience isn’t just about being able to bounce back from a situation. Bouncing back is important, but what’s also important is how quickly you can rebound from being emotionally distraught.
Maintaining a high level of resilience has a lot to do with our thinking style. How we interpret events and situations in our lives determines our resilience capacity. In turn, that thinking style determines our emotional state.
Are our thoughts productive, positive thoughts, or negative, unproductive thoughts? In other words do we see the cup half empty or half full?
People with resilient thinking styles learn from failure instead of marinating in it. They see hardships as challenges, and turn failure into success. People with low resilient thinking styles use a lot of energy while spinning their emotional wheels, giving an unfortunate new meaning to the term “brain drain.”
For example, people who thrive on drama use up an incredible amount of energy that typically doesn’t produce positive results. The solution: exercise your resilience muscle and build it up.
Next on your list, monitor your “self-talk” or chatter, the internal dialogue we have in our heads from the minute we get up in the morning until we go to sleep at night.
Outside of our health and families, there is nothing more important than what we are saying to ourselves. With self-awareness and the right coping strategies, you can make positive, productive changes. We now know through the latest research and studies that our brains can change at any stage of life through a process known as “neuroplasticity.”
Here are a few more tips that can help during the stressful times of being sandwiched between the generations:
Keep one calendar. Make sure you are keeping one calendar for all your appointments, personal and professional. If you have something scheduled for work, for one of your kids, or for your parents, put it in your calendar so you don’t double book. The smart phone, or iPhone calendar that color-codes appointments by topic (work, home, etc) can be very useful.
Make a realistic To-do List. You have a lot on your mind. Make a realistic to-do list so that things don’t fall through the cracks. The calendar and list together will help you stay organized.
De-clutter your space. If you have any clutter lying around that’s not accomplishing anything, tackle it now! By de-cluttering you’ll find you’ll have more clarity and focus with a minimum of time expended.
Practice self-care. Don’t ignore your own needs. Make it a point to practice self-care. Take time to re-charge your battery. We are not robots and downtime is important, even when we’re loaded with responsibilities. Do something that is fun. If you have a passion take time for it. Read a non-work related book, or take a bubble bath with candles and place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door knob.
Try mediation and deep breathing. While some remain skeptical with regard to the usefulness of these techniques, they can help lower your blood pressure over time. Try a book or CD by Dr. Andrew Weil on breathing or mediation or other books or CDs on the topic to help you relax and lower your blood pressure.
It’s not easy being part of America’s “sandwiched generation.” But by being positive, organized, and proactive and by paying attention to their health, Boomers can cope with life’s complexities while still leading happy and productive lives, achieving their own Independence Day of mind, body and spirit.
Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, is a Certified Business, Life and Leadership Coach. Susan focuses on life and career transition, business and leadership, and confidence and resilience strategies. Susan is also a speaker and facilitator, as well as a Community Content Producer for WUSA 9 TV. For more detailed information sign up for my complimentary newsletter at my website,www.selftalkcoach.com.
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