Sandwiched In

Are you among the many adults who fit in the "sandwich generation," with children or teens yet to raise and an elderly parent to care for? If so, learn to cope without becoming overly stressed:

  • Start by taking care of you: eat smart, fit regular physical activity in, and try to stay rested. Overcome stress or lack of time so they don't become barriers! You'll be more effective in all your family roles as parent, son or daughter, or perhaps spouse—and perhaps in the workforce or your volunteer work.
  • Plan openly with your whole family, including kids and an elder parent(s), so that goals, responsibilities, and expectations are clear. That includes activities that surround eating: shopping, food preparation and cleanup, eating schedules, and family meals.
  • Share responsibilities as a family rather than attempt to do everything yourself. Try to avoid neglecting one family member to care for another.
  • Gather a support network that may include adult day programs, home-delivered meals if you work all day, and other senior citizen services for your parent. Ask for help, and accept when it's offered.
  • Accept the fact that you'll be tired and perhaps angry sometimes. That's okay, so discard any feelings of guilt. Instead, get help so you can have a break, even if it's just for a few hours. Maybe it's a good time to do something physically active. If negative feelings trigger eating, find another emotional outlet.
  • Respect privacy, dignity, and independence.

Facilities:

  • Is the dining area clean and attractive?
  • Are menus printed with lettering that's big enough for older people to read?
  • Is the dining area well lit throughout, not just with "mood" lighting or single lights that cause glare?
  • Does the dining area encourage socializing?

Food:

  • Are people given choices from a variety of foods?
  • Are plenty of beverages and snacks available throughout the day?
  • Is the menu changed often, so the menu cycle doesn't get monotonous?
  • Are fresh fruits and vegetables served often?
  • Is food served attractively?
  • Are religious and cultural food restrictions honored and respected? How about special food preferences?
  • Are holidays and special events celebrated with special menus or appropriate foods?
  • Are special meals, such as low-sodium or soft meals, provided to those who need them?
  • Are people offered a chance to make food requests that aren't on the menu?

Staff:

  • Is mealtime viewed as important to daily life at the facility?
  • Is a registered dietitian on staff?
  • Are people encouraged to eat in a common dining room? Are they offered assistance to get there?
  • Do staff or volunteers help those with eating difficulties, perhaps cutting food or helping them eat?
  • Do staff or volunteers wear sanitary gloves when they're helping people eat so they don't spread infection?
  • Are people given enough time to eat, and not rushed?
  • For those who can't leave their rooms, is food brought to them on attractive trays?
  • If they need help, is it given promptly so food doesn't get cold? Are trays also removed promptly?
  • For a nursing home, does the staff track each person's weight, and how much they eat and drink?
  • Are special food and nutrition needs given individual attention? Are special utensils offered if needed?
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