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Family 411: Caregivers

Updated: Tuesday, January 7 2014, 07:55 PM EST

More Americans than ever before are living in the "Sandwich Generation." That means they are taking care of children and at least one aging parent. The stress is taking its toll on the caregivers.

The Pew Research Center says nearly half of American adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent who's 65 or older, while either raising a young child, or financially supporting a grown child. 

Dr. Julie Schaefer knows the burden of the sandwich generation.  Julie has three sons, one in college, a mother with Alzheimer's, and a dad who often needs help taking care of her.

"As long as I was standing, I was available because my health was certainly better than theirs," said Jenny MacDougall.

Jenny MacDougall started caring for her parents while still working full-time as a teacher.  Her 92-year old mother lives in a senior facility, but Jenny helps with her medicine, laundry, bathing, and transportation several times a week.

"She's given a lot of her time to taking care of me, and I'm very appreciative," said Maybel Lawson.

The National Center on Caregiving says 75 percent of sandwich generation caregivers are women. Most work full time, and many routinely neglect their own needs.

"They don't go to the doctor like they should. They don't exercise like they should," said Dr. Schaefer.

Dr. Shaefer not just living it. She also sees it in her medical practice.

"I see a lot of patients with anxiety, insomnia," said Dr. Shaefer.   

Kathy Smith started a business after taking care of her parents and aunt.  Seniors Resource Hub has check lists for choosing care facilities, and downsizing and moving. 

"Everybody seems to start from ground zero," said Smith.

Her E-Health repository puts all of a senior's medical information, contacts, even important documents together in one place, saving time at the doctor or hospital. 

"They can hang it on a flash drive on their key chain," said Smith.

Getting organized was a way for Smith to manage her role as caregiver. MacDougall says a support network helped.

Despite the stress, these women treasure the time with loved ones.

All three women in the story say having a support network is crucial. Dr. Schaefer says regular exercise is her number one way of fighting stress and anxiety.

Click here for the Seniors Resource Hub Products.

Click here for Resources for Caregivers.

Family 411: Caregivers

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