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Hospice Uniquely Qualified to Assist Caregivers Belonging to “Sandwich Generation”

You feel like you’re in the middle of an old-fashioned taffy pull – being stretched at both ends and there’s no way out.

Welcome to the “sandwich generation,” which finds you caring not only for your own children, but also your parents or in-laws or a complicated combination.

“It’s a lot of juggling at both ends – caring for your own children and/or grandchildren, but also making time for mom or dad and the changing needs they have as they age,” says Jan Amato, business development specialist for Emmanuel Hospice. “One minute, you’re making lunches for your school-age kids, and in the next, you’re arranging all kinds of medical appointments for your parents.

“There could be as many as four generations involved at once, and there you are, trying to keep everyone happy and healthy.”

The accompanying challenge: Dealing with a heavy dose of stress if you’re the designated driver for all those people looking to you for everything from meals to transportation to housing to emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Add in a serious, life-limiting illness, and it can feel entirely overwhelming.

In her capacity at Emmanuel Hospice, Amato has seen first-hand the effects of those stress-inducing conditions, and notes how Emmanuel is equipped to help not only its patients, but their family members cope and develop strategies for challenges posed by being caught up at both ends.

“A cardinal rule,” she emphasizes, “is regularly carving out some time for yourself, even if it’s a half hour to read, take a bath or work on a project, or just sit quietly and take in the present.

“You need to find something that’s enjoyable to you, and then take the time to do it, and without taking that phone call.”

Amato also has personal experience with the juggling act of the sandwich generation. Her father-in-law is located in Ohio, while Amato and her husband still reside in Michigan. To help care for him, her husband and his siblings take turns visiting. But Amato says it’s typical for one sibling to absorb more responsibility for mom or dad, and that can lead to stress and friction.

“We try to walk that journey with the patient and their family, and a lot of times there are multiple family members expressing different opinions on how that journey should look.”

Amato says it’s important for caregivers to develop a self-care strategy that includes:

  • Building a strong support system.
  • Setting aside time for self-care and staying engaged with your hobbies and interests.
  • Not discounting what others can do; lean on your network and be willing to delegate.
  • Keeping priorities organized.

National platforms like CaringBridge also offer helpful resources for navigating challenges of being a caregiver with tools to help you share and communicate updates with loved ones, as well as ask for and receive support.

“At Emmanuel Hospice, we’re qualified to connect people with professionals who specialize in counseling that helps those who might feel overwhelmed as a caregiver at both ends,” Amato says. “People need to know it’s OK to have that third party intervene.”

For more information, call 616.719.0919, or visit