Mother’s Day: Celebrating “Moms in the Middle”

image of senior and adult daughter

Life for mothers was very different when Mother’s Day officially became a U.S. holiday in 1914. Back then, only a fifth of women held jobs outside the home, and it would be another five years before the 19th amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. Mothers have come a long way, and have more responsibilities to their families and communities than ever.

But, one thing has remained the same: mothers are most often the caregivers in the family. And increasingly, mothers have the dual roles of caring for children and elderly parents.

The Sandwich Generation
When seniors need support, most turn to their middle-aged daughters, who are likely mothers themselves, also supporting their own children. With elderly women significantly outnumbering men, many middle-aged moms are moms in the middle: mothering their own children while looking after their elderly mothers, too.

In fact, 66% of caregivers are women (primarily in their 40’s and 50’s), and nearly half of middle-aged adults have senior parents and are supporting a child.

Mom in the Middle
It’s an act of love, caring for children and elderly parents. The type of care varies. Some moms in the middle assist with errands and finances, or are relied upon to coordinate a move to a senior living community. Other moms in the middle are full-time, hands-on caregivers for a parent with major physical or cognitive impairments.

And that’s all while raising children, supporting an adult child, or helping with grandchildren. All of that caregiving can take an emotional and physical toll.

Special Care for Moms In The Middle
This Mother’s Day, pay special attention to the mom in the middle. Whether that is you or someone you love, here are some ways to look after a mom who is a caregiver across multiple generations.

  1. Speak up. Often, mothers make caregiving look easy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, they may not know! If you’re the family or friend of a mom in the middle, ask how she’s feeling and offer specific ways you can help.
  2. Share responsibilities. Determine which tasks can be delegated to other family members or volunteers, whether it’s for a day or long term.
  3. Use your support network. A support network of friends and family who can help with caregiving tasks or lend a sympathetic ear is an invaluable resource. If that’s not an option, look to local or online caregiver support resources.
  4. Seek respite care. Many senior living communities offer short-term stays to help caregivers who need to travel or who need a rest from the demands of caregiving.
  5. Clear your mind. Whether through prayer, meditation, or physical exercise, set aside a time each day dedicated entirely to your well-being. Families and friends of caregivers can volunteer to be “on call” for a short time each day.
  6. Laugh. Caregiving is challenging, emotional work, and laughter is a proven physical and emotional stress buster. Whether it’s a few minutes a day reading a funny book, talking with your funniest friend, or watching your favorite stand-up comedian, laugh for your health. (A caregiver’s favorite comedy on DVD also makes a terrific gift.)
    And most important…

  8. Be a caregiver for yourself. When looking after a loved one’s health, it’s easy to lose sight of your own. Be on the lookout for physical and mental symptoms of caregiver burnout in yourself or the caregiver in your family: constant exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, catching lots of colds, and irritability and depression.

A caregiver can only care for another if she is well herself. This Mother’s day take time out to make sure that the caregiver in your life is healthy, happy, and supported.

FountainView at College Road is a glatt kosher senior living community in Rockland County, NY.

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