If you are part of the sandwich generation, you are in a unique position of managing two households at very different stages. Keeping up with caregiving responsibilities and the tasks of two families can be overwhelming. How does one person manage the cooking, cleaning, laundry and care for two households, while providing care well? The answer is, one person doesn’t. It takes a village.
Here are some tasks you can simplify, outsource or alter to lighten your load.
1. Meals: Preparing meals for two households can be a challenge. I find that cooking a big batch of dinners over the weekend helps cut down on the chaos of getting dinner on the table after a long day of work. I spend about 2-3 hours making a few simple meals that can be reheated throughout the week. I typically prepare a pasta dish that will last 2-3 meals and some sort of chicken casserole dish that is loaded with vegetables. We supplement the meals with salad or vegetable sides. It isn’t exciting to eat the same meals throughout the week, but it is efficient and so far, there have been no complaints. I have a number of dishes that I’m planning to try or have tried on my Pinterest Dinner Board.
If you are making meals for your family and also need to ensure that your parent(s) are fed in their home, you can always package up some of your meals for them to reheat throughout the week, or try a home delivery service. Meals on Wheels delivers to senior homes. They deliver around lunchtime, but most of my customers saved the meal for dinner, since they preferred to eat their more substantial meal in the evening. If they aren’t interested in the food from Meals on Wheels, there are a number of food delivery services available now that they may prefer. While some provide the ingredients and leave the cooking to you, there are some services geared specifically towards seniors that come fully cooked.
Meal delivery services (outside of Meals on Wheels) can be pricey, so if you can’t afford to have meals delivered to your parents, perhaps you can pay someone to prepare food for them. This is where you get creative. Do you have a friend whose son or daughter is interested in cooking? Does a neighbor have a cleaning person who prepares meals for their family? Is there someone from church who loves to cook but has an empty nest? Think about your “village” and who can possibly fill this gap.
2. Grocery shopping: A few weeks ago, I ran into a good friend who is a working mom with twins. We were talking about how hard it is to get everything done on weekends and still squeeze in fun with our families. She shared a tip with me that has literally been life changing. She has been ordering groceries through Amazon Prime Now and they are delivered from her local grocery store in two hours, with no service charge, outside of a tip.
Two weeks ago, we had a super busy weekend and were out all day Saturday and would be out all day Sunday. My husband was leaving town for the week on Tuesday and I had stitches in my neck, so I was unable to grocery shop. I decided to give Amazon Prime Now a try. While I was still in bed at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, I took out my phone and ordered all of our produce, dairy, protein and necessities for the week. Our groceries arrived at 10 a.m., much to my husband’s surprise. He was planning to shop after the kids were in bed at 8:30 p.m. It only cost us an extra $9 for the tip, but was well worth that nominal fee. Life changing.
Of course, if your mom or dad prefers to go to the grocery store and select his or her own apples, bananas and broccoli, you can always outsource the transportation. Many cities offer a City Ride shuttle transportation service that is very low cost and ideal for grocery trips. If your city doesn’t offer a suitable resource, you can consider asking a retired neighbor or stay at home mom if they would be able to take your parent along when they go grocery shopping. I know many of my customers looked forward to grocery shopping because they got out of the house and had built-in socializing.
3. Laundry: I’m sorry. There aren’t many laundry shortcuts, outside of outsourcing. Trust me, if there was a shortcut, I would be implementing it. It amazes me how much laundry a family of four can produce!
While there aren’t many shortcuts, one thing I have found is I prefer doing laundry at my condominium complex than at my parent’s home. Why? At my complex, we can do four loads at one time – a huge timesaver!
If you don’t live in a multi-unit building with several machines, you can always pack up your laundry and take it to a laundromat. I used to do this when I lived in an apartment that never had available units and it was a huge timesaver. You can wash as many loads as you need to in less than two hours. This could double as your “me” time, since while the laundry is in a machine, you have nothing to do but sit and wait. Take a book, take your bills or listen to your favorite music.
If your parents don’t have a lot of laundry, or you don’t want to sit at a laundromat, you can outsource to a fluff and fold service. Many dry cleaners offer fluff and fold, priced by weight, so you may want to do the sheets and towels at home and outsource the clothing.
4. Bill paying and mail pile up: If you haven’t already set up online bill pay, drop everything and do it now. Even if you have bills that fluctuate, you can set up the payee and when the bill comes, put in the amount due and set up the payment date. You can set this up on your bank’s website and it takes very little time to set up and costs nothing.
You can set up bill pay for your bills and your parents’ bills, reducing the amount of paper you need to touch every month. I don’t know about you, but we get mountains of paper and if we don’t stay on top of it, we feel like we’re drowning.
On the paper mountain note, you can set up your bills for electronic billing and opt out of junk mail to reduce the amount of paper coming into your home. Here are some resources I came across that can help reduce the paper clutter: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information, National Do Not Mail List and Catalog Choice. I admit, I have not embarked on this task yet, but it is on my to do list.
Do you have tips to help make caregiving more manageable?
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