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Alzheimer's Caregivers: Sandwiched Between Parenting Your Kids and Your Parents

Caring for kids and a loved one with Alzheimer’s, too? Here’s how to make it easier -- for everyone.

Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Family Issues

It’s not easy to balance the needs of your kids and your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Here are some suggestions and things to consider.

  • Explain the situation to your kids. Odds are, your kids have already noticed that something is off. So explain that it’s a disease that’s making your loved one behave strangely -- and that it’s not contagious. Stress that you will still be there for your kids, even if you’ll be spending more time caregiving.
  • Involve your kids. According to a survey by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of American, 60% of the children of sandwich generation caregivers help out in the caregiving. Young kids can provide entertainment; older kids could help out by doing more chores around the house or driving your loved one to appointments. Of course, not all kids will be receptive to this. You might just hate the idea of burdening your kids with caregiving responsibilities. But sometimes circumstances give you little choice. And if the household functions better as a result of their help, everybody benefits.
  • Meet as a family. Periodically, sit down with your spouse and kids to talk things over. How is the caregiving situation affecting the rest of the family? Things change. An arrangement that worked well for everyone a few years ago might not be working so well anymore. Meeting together with a professional -- like a case manager or a therapist -- can help, Schempp says.
  • Sometimes, exclude grandma. A person with Alzheimer’s tends to become the center of attention, which can leave kids -- and other adults -- feeling overlooked. So although you might feel guilty about it, you need time away. Schempp suggests a weekly dinner out with just your spouse and kids to reconnect as a family.

Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Work Issues

Although half of caregivers keep working, Alzheimer’s caregiving is likely to diminish your performance and may sidetrack your career. Here are some things to think about.

  • Evaluate your options. Even if your caregiving responsibilities aren’t overwhelming right now, start exploring what’s possible. How flexible is your employer? Could you shift to part-time if you needed to? Would working from home a few days a week be an option? What kind of eldercare coverage does your employer’s insurance offer? Learn what your options are before there’s a crisis.
  • Look for a different job. If your current employer is inflexible, you may have to quit. That could sound like reckless advice, especially considering today’s economic climate. But you must accept the reality of your position. “Caregivers with demanding jobs who don’t own up to their situation just get increasingly stressed until they hit a breaking point and quit,” says Schempp. Better to plan for a job change than make it impulsively when you’re burnt out.
  • Consider the benefits of a job beyond the paycheck. If you’re thinking about quitting, consider all the consequences. Eakin points out that if you stop working, you stop paying into social security; that means that you could be risking your own financial security later in life. Also, a job -- with responsibilities away from home and contact with coworkers -- can be a reprieve from the demands of caregiving. Losing that outside connection can be very hard.

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