You’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, watching the clock, waiting for your mother’s medical tests to finally be over. Mentally you’re calculating whether you have enough time to drive your mother home, pick up some groceries, and cook dinner for your teenager. . . or will you be ordering pizza yet again tonight?
If this scene feels at all familiar to you, then you’re likely one of the 712,000 Canadians who fit into the infamous “sandwich generation”. The sandwich generation generally applies to those in their 40’s to 60’s who are simultaneously caring for their aging parents as well as their growing children.
Advances in healthcare are allowing people to live longer lives, though not necessarily healthier lives. The end of one’s life may include more intensive care, further demanding the time and energy of the sandwich generation who is caught between their parents and children. The increased life expectancy has led to another possibility—the club sandwich generation. The club sandwich refers to people who are assisting their aging parents, while also being involved in their children’s, and grandchildren’s lives.
Four living generations is no longer a rare scenario.
It is now possible for families to have two generations who are both in their senior years at the same time! The club sandwich can also apply to someone who is in her 40’s who has teenagers at home, while also assisting her 68 year old parents and her 92 year old grandparents. A woman in this situation is caring for two senior generations simultaneously, while also raising her own family.
Add to this the pressures of work, marriage, personal life, volunteer commitments, and personal health—no wonder there is concern about the sandwich generation suffering burn-out! Often people feel that they should be able to manage all of the simultaneous caregiving because previous generations managed to do so. In reality, previous generations did not experience the sandwich generation phenomenon to the same degree, and they certainly did not experience club sandwich generations!
Recognizing the unique challenges faced by today’s sandwich generation will help to alleviate guilt and replace the sense of “I should be able to do this” with “where can I find meaningful assistance?". Acknowledging that you cannot do it all alone and that you deserve assistance is the first step. There are services available to help so that you don't have to this all alone!
Caring for your own health and well-being is crucial!
Managing to eat healthy meals, and getting exercise needs to be a personal priority, not just something to do if you have time left over—because there is never time left over. If you are feeling completely stressed and burned out, you are in not in the best condition to care for loved ones.
Intead, think about accepting homecare assitance so that you are able to lead a balanced lifestyle that cares for you too! Put support systems in place to assist you in caring for your parents and grandparents. A loving companion aide might be just the solution to support your parents while caring for your health at the same time.
With support systems set in place, you can avoid being toasted, and enjoy as many of your “sandwich” years as possible!
When asked “how much do you exercise?” the answer is invariably “not enough!” We know that we should exercise more, but do we know what the consequences are if we fail to exercise regularly?
Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke(as well as other many other illnesses such as diabetes and even dementia). It is a risk factor that we have control over, so we should reduce our risk!
How much exercise do we really need?
The official guidelines from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity. That’s it! That’s an attainable goal—within reach, even for people who aren’t accustomed to exercise. Even 10 minute increments of activity count toward the total of 150 minutes.
Of course, 150 minutes doesn’t need to be a limit. More activity is even better. The guideline is a base limit for how much activity adults (middle age, baby boomers, seniors, and even the frail elderly) require each week.
Which activities count toward your 150 minutes?
The good news is that going to the gym is not your only option! Walking is a simple and easy heart-healthy activity, and counts toward your minutes. Even household activities can count—vigorous cleaning, gardening and yard work all elevate your heart rate and get your blood pumping, and that’s the goal of physical activity!
I find it encouraging to measure exercise in terms of 150 minutes weekly because it allows for flexibility. In contrast, if you measure exercise as ’30 minutes most days of the week’, the focus is on 30 minute intervals, and missing a few days in a week can feel like overall failure.
For the frail seniors who are utilizing our Triple Vitality program, they appreciate the flexibility in measuring total minutes over the course of a week. Ten-minute increments feel very accessible. Frail seniors can manage 10 minutes of light exercise! Thirty minutes may be out of reach when we first start, but 10-minute activity sessions throughout the day add up quickly!
Our clients are so encouraged by the progress that they experience. You can feel the benefits of exercise very quickly. Increased energy and stamina, renewed interest in activities, reduced stress, better sleeping and digestion, are all immediate benefits to exercise. Knowing that you are contributing to improved overall health and reducing your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other illnesses only increases the incentive to continue being active!
Be sure to track your minutes of activity this week and see how close you are to the recommended minimum of 150 minutes. Remember that 10 minutes of activity at a time can count toward your total!
If you know someone who is elderly and they are unsure about how to become active, be sure to contact Warm Embrace. Our Triple Vitality program is specifically designed for the frail elderly who need assistance to become active. We love to make a healthy, proactive difference in people’s lives, regardless of age!
thank you for the email.. it has been quite some time since I received your emails. I found this exercise information interesting. I just started the wellness program for diabetics at the Y and am slowly getting more active again.
One of the greatest honours I have in my position at Warm Embrace Elder Care, is to witness the lives of our incredible clients, and to be invited into their lives at such an important moment. I am frequently astounded at all the challenges my elderly clients have overcome, and their subsequent life view.
Witnessing love that has developed over a 65 year marriage is phenomenal. I recently met a couple who is in their mid-eighties and is approaching their 66th wedding anniversary. I marveled at the feat and asked how they had initially met.
She was 19 and he was 22 years old. He arrived late to a dance, and just as he was arriving, she was packing up to leave. He thought she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and he overcame his usual shyness and requested a dance with her. She conceded, and they danced the night away. Sixty-five years later, that couple is still waltzing through life together.
How incredible! As very young adults, they were attracted to each other, and then created love out of that union. The gentleman told me that: “she was so beautiful that I thought I loved her. I didn’t even know what love was yet! It is now that I truly love her. I love her more and more each year.”
To be in the presence of such enduring love, such dedication and loyalty, is truly humbling. In today’s world, young people in their late teens and early twenties feel they don’t know themselves yet, much less have the ability to truly know someone else. Today’s young generation wait to “fall” in love and find a “perfect” partner. The generation that married 65 years ago had a totally different approach. They found a partner with whom they could connect, and they determined to create love and create a life together. Quitting wasn’t an option; when trouble arose, they faced it together and created a solution.
The couple was curious about my fascination with their 65-year marriage. They don’t view it as being extraordinary in anyway; I was clearly impressed. I explained how there are entire sections of bookstores dedicated to self-help guidance on relationships, love, and marriage. They guffawed and thought that was ridiculous; then the woman said: “I’m not saying it was always easy. It wasn’t. We had our troubles just like anyone else. But we made a promise to each other, and we’re people who keep our word. So when it got tough, we just decided to keep going and wait for the feeling of love to return. Sure enough, it did!” I teased her that with advice as simple and straightforward as that, she might put the relationship section of the bookstore out of business!
These two marvelous people are so interconnected that they almost operate as one. They’re beyond finishing each other’s sentences; it seems they sometimes communicate without even saying a word!
They know each other’s likes and dislikes right down to the correct teaspoon served with afternoon tea. They can only recollect being apart for a handful of nights their entire marriage.
Now, life has become just a little more challenging, and living together at home requires some assistance. What an honour it is for us to provide the caregiving this couple needs to remain at home together.
I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for this couple to be split up if one person were sent to a nursing home and the other remained at home. They can’t even fathom it! Thank goodness home care allows them to remain together, and allows their touching love story to continue.
They tell me that this is the final chapter of their love story. With all the adversity this couple has faced and survived, I wouldn’t be surprised if they celebrated their 70th and 75th wedding anniversaries! I’m so privileged to witness and be inspired by this enduring love.
If you have a story of Enduring Love, please share it with us! We love to hear inspiring love stories!
It’s no secret that the holiday season has become increasingly complicated with a heavy focus on commercialism—lots of shopping, busy malls, huge meals, many parties...the list goes on. While some people may enjoy making detailed desserts that look like a Martha Stewart display, many others find it stressful. When did all this pressure become the norm?
If you ask your grandparents what Christmas used to be like, I’ll bet they would tell you a different story. If they were of the generation that lived through the depression era, you can be certain that there was very little—if any—Christmas shopping to be done.
Instead, the focus was on being together with loved ones, and participating in activities together. Rather than rushing around trying to have everything in perfect order before family arrived, the focus was on doing things together as a family. Decorations were much simpler, but usually included extended family members. Popcorn was strung and used as a garland hung outside for the birds to enjoy. Fruit featured prominently in
décor—orange peels were used creatively as little baskets, or peels were dried and cut into shapes.
These simple traditions are low-cost and allow everyone to focus on quality time together, rather than individually rushing about stressing about fancy décor. Perhaps this year you can slow down the pace of the holiday season and revert to some time-honoured traditions from your grandparents’ era. What a special tribute for your grandparents or great-grandparents this holiday season!