/ Jan-Feb 2006 / The Art of Multitasking...
By Maggie Almeida
Caregiving itself is an art.
Many today are part of the Sandwich Generation who find themselves
caring for both young children and teenagers as well as aging
parents. Caregivers need to be professional multi-taskers to address
everyone’s needs and not neglect their own. So what should a good
caregiver focus on? As many know, it’s a balancing act, but there’s
an order to follow starting with the caregiver himself.
Step number one is to look out
for number one; me, myself, I, the big cheese, the head beagle (just
ask Snoopy). This may sound selfish, but it’s really the most
unselfish place to start. After all, if number one is not well, you
cannot take care of your other charges. If you have a good attitude,
you can even overcome your own health issues with greater ease.
Those you care for also notice because they naturally behave as they
see you behaving. This is called mirroring. One wise caregiver told
me that her husband with Alzheimer's was manageable because she knew
that when her demeanor was calm, so was his. If she raised her
voice, so did he. You can see where this leads. The caregiver had
total control of her life as long as she managed her own emotions.
Step number two would be to give
your attention to the next most vulnerable person you’re caring for.
If it’s a child, have the older generation help since they may be
acting childlike now. They may be able to play simple games with a
child that you don’t have time for. Age and ability specific jigsaw
puzzles, puppets, lying down with a child to get them to take a nap,
or any other play related activity.
If your children are older, and
you need to focus on Mom or Dad or Aunt Sally, have the older
children help you in caring for your aged loved one. Keep it small
and simple, but their involvement can mean the world to the older
relative. It esteems them and they feel useful, as if the child
needs their guidance. Some children feel esteemed when they’re asked
to help and it also builds their character to practice acts of
kindness toward the elderly. If they want an example of the positive
impact of a grandmother on a pop star they all know, look at Will
Smith. Even while accepting an American Music Award he gave the
credit to his grandmother. She must have been inspirational, but he
also allowed himself to be inspired by spending time with her.
Parents can make this happen and enhance the whole family dynamic as
well as build its heritage.
In conclusion, look at
multi-tasking as building blocks. Today many families are fragmented
because a caregiver in the sandwich generation gets burnt out on
both ends. As they focus on caregiving, there are levels of trust
and affection that we build. When the stress gets too much,
sometimes the “tower of family solidarity” gets knocked down.
Someone yells or cries. This doesn’t mean that the tower is erased
from memory. Go back and do something nice for yourself because you
are the cornerstone of your tower. The other blocks will be added
again and again. Focus on the big picture because your part in
caregiving is a temporary role in a continuum. As soon as your
duties end, you may be the one needing care.