Shirene Gentry, M.A.
I became “sandwiched” between my youngest child’s diaper bag with snacks on one shoulder and a heaving bag on the other- the second bag carrying my aging parents’ file folders of bank statements.
I became weighed down physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually during a season of life that none of my peers could relate to. I was in my mid-30s and as an only child; the burden of providing care for my aging parents was on my shoulders. Although I can look back on my commitment to my aging parents with no regret, there were quite a few caregiving issues that came with huge learning curve. While nothing could have completely prepared me for each and every situation I encountered, there are several areas in which I could have benefited from a coach who was knowledgeable about the issues facing a caregiver- especially one ‘sandwiched’ between generations.
With the International Coach Federation reporting that 80% of coaching clients had improved self-confidence and 67% had an improved life/work balance, a coach can help a sandwiched caregiver immensely (International Coach Federation, n.d.).
The following S-A-N-D-W-I-C-H acronym can be used to remember eight areas to review with clients. Problem solving in these areas can benefit not only your client, but those depending on your client for daily care.
S- Self-care is Crucial. How does the client intend to take care of himself or herself on a daily basis? What will recharge their emotional and physical bodies? How will your client learn to say “yes” and “no” when needed? Caregivers often struggle with boundaries and even the basics of self-care. As their coach, you can assist in this process.
A- Address Difficult Issues. Are their legal documents in order? Examples include Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Estate Wills, just to name a few. Do they desire to stay in their home? Are there financial resources to accomplish this? Obtain names of the parents’ professional network and secure Powers of Attorney to discuss parents’ financial, legal, and medical matters with the respective professionals. If the aging loved one is not of sound mind, guardianship may be needed. Consult a lawyer in your state as needed to answer these questions.
N- Name and Identify Your Support Team. Who can be a support system for you and your family as well as those to help your aging parents? Examples include, but are not limited to, neighbors, close friends, local agencies to provide services, and professionals (accountants, lawyers, doctors, and cleaning services, etc.).
D- Driving & Transportation. How will your clients assess the driving abilities of their parent(s)? Are those who are aging able to drive? This can easily be a source of conflict among family members, but a necessary topic to discuss. If needed, let the medical professionals speak to this issue.
W- Wishes, Expectations and Desires. How will the client begin the conversation with their loved ones regarding their wishes? Wishes can be an all-inclusive topic regarding care (short term and long term). What are the unwritten and unspoken beliefs that “drive” the family regarding care? These are expectations that need to be addressed. In doing so, they may or may not be realistic given each family’s unique responsibilities. There is no right or wrong formula for these issues.
I- Individual Spirituality. Assess your client’s view of God using a Likert Scale. Do they feel He is distant? Near? How can the caregiver best sense and feel God’s presence? Your client may want to journal their spiritual journey. Also, it will be a blessing to reflect back on their written record in future years.
C- Communication. If married, how can the caregiver daily communicate to stay emotionally connected with their spouse? How can the spouse listen with empathy so as to understand? How can they, as a couple, navigate this season of caregiving while still honoring their marital covenant as priority? Communication coaching may be needed for the caregiving couple. Communication is not just for couples, however. Healthy communication skills are important for interactions with parents, children, employers, relatives, and friends. If the primary caregiver is employed, he or she may need to make their employer and/or employees aware of any schedule changes incurred by medical/legal appointments. As the coach, you need to make sure that you are modeling good communication skills for your client.
H- Humor and Positivity. How can your client(s) incorporate humor or other healthy coping skills to build resiliency? Humor is good for the mind and body in relieving stress. Have them make a list of their “Top 10” to incorporate on a regular basis to promote positive self-care. In addition, these will be identifiable life skills for the future.
Many unexpected details of caregiving sandwich the caregiver on every level. As coaches, it is our job to help our clients understand that he/she can be as proactive as possible with the issues that are within their control.
International Coach Federation, (n.d.) Benefits of using a coach. Retrieved from http://coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=747
Shirene H. Gentry received her bachelor of arts degree from Wake Forest University and her master of arts in professional counseling from Liberty University. She is a board certified master Christian life coach in High Point, North Carolina specializing in the areas of stress management, relationship, marriage, and health/wellness. She is a member of the AACC and the ICCA. She has written several books, including Change Unveiled: Hope for Positive Choices, Inspiration Unveiled: Hope for the Seasons of Life, and Recipes Unveiled: Hope for Healthy Eating.
She can be reached at email@example.com, Hope Unveiled Life Coaching (Facebook), hopeunveiled (Instagram), @hopeunveiled; @Shirene_G. (Twitter), and Hope Unveiled Life Coaching (YouTube).