The Big Squeeze

If you belong to the Big Chill generation, welcome to the Big Squeeze.

A parent has become elderly and dependent on you. Whether physically, financially or emotionally, it all adds up to the same: you have switched roles. At the same time, your spouse, partner or child becomes needy — surgery, illness, layoff, or other life-altering event.

There you are, in a role few would choose willingly: squeezed between competing needs, pulled between the desire to do the right thing for those you love, and the need to take care of yourself so you can do the right thing.

Even if you have caring family and friends — and be grateful if you do — it can be a difficult period to get through. Some days are a blur of doing. On a good day, you feel like Chris Bliss, the amazing comedian who keeps three balls moving in time to the Beatles’ Golden Slumbers. Sometimes, it feel like a three ring circus, especially if you are working — even part-time — or have other obligations (who doesn’t?) You may feel happy to be ‘the strong one.’ You may feel satisfied, proud, almost heroic. But mostly, at the end of the day, you’re depleted. Send in the clowns, please!

A few things you could try to take care of the default caregiver you’ve become.

  • Humor. As Norman Cousins famously discovered, laughter is great medicine. “A good way to jog internally,” he called it.
  • Sit down for every meal.
  • Take a nap even if you are not a naturally napper.
  • Take deep breaths when you start to feel impatient or irritated and ask the person for whom you are providing care, to do the same.
  • Load up your Ipod or CD player with the music you really love and listen to it a lot.
  • Get exercise, preferably in the fresh air. Start an exercise program if you’ve been putting it off.
  • Keep the door open to all offers of help in whatever form they come.
  • Get a massage, manicure, facial. Whatever makes you feel cared for.
  • Keep visualizing the people you are caring for as the babies they once were.