Twenty-four hours in a day doesn't feel like enough time. I genuinely believe I could get everything done if the day held about four more awake hours. But it doesn't and so I don't. The house isn't as clean as usual. We eat a lot of pre-prepared meals. Sweatpants are my uniform (although, in the year 2020, aren't most of us dressing more casually?). This article is two days late to my editor. In my current daily juggling act as a compound caregiver, some balls are going to get dropped.
A rise in compound caregiving
Compound caregiving means providing care to two or more people at once. It's not uncommon. A whopping 24 percent of caregivers care for more than one adult person. This number is up significantly from even five years ago.
Multi-person caregiving can occur several times throughout life, at different stages. Sandwich generation caregivers will assist their children and parents for years. Older adults may provide care for a spouse and grandchild together. Rural and multigenerational households frequently find more than one person in a household needing care. For anybody, it is a possibility and it can come sooner than you think — or when you don't expect it.
When I first considered writing this article, I reflected on several personal experiences. I recalled driving from my mother's first chemotherapy appointment straight to a hospital an hour away to attend an aunt's mastectomy. Supporting a relative when she cared for her adult son with intellectual disabilities and her husband with cancer simultaneously. The time when my husband was physically incapacitated for months when our child was 2 years old. Those experiences — and working professionally with families that have multiple care recipients under one roof — have helped me to understand the complexities presented when two people need your help at the same time. In my mind, I had some decent tips and tools for the compound caregiver.
An unexpected change
And then suddenly ... I became an active caregiver again. My husband reinjured himself and is unable to stand or walk. Our child is not a toddler anymore, but she is still young and needing lots of love, time and attention. My spouse can give love and attention aplenty, yet can't manage the day-to-day parenting tasks. We are now almost a month in and we are uncertain about how long his recovery will be. This new reality made me realize how important it is to take my own advice about compound caregiving, seek the advice and recommendations of others, and be open to learning more every day (especially about how to adapt to caregiving during a pandemic) to prepare for the months ahead.