Liz Seegert ​ Photo by Jim Seegert

THE PEW RESEARCH CENTER estimates that 47 percent of Americans between ages 40 and 59 are part of the so-called “sandwich generation,” meaning they have a parent age 65 or older and are supporting their own young or grown children.

When you are caring for a parent with cancer in addition to children, you may feel the need to clone yourself to get everything done. The following tips can help you organize, prioritize and delegate tasks to keep your life 
in balance.

Assess your parent’s needs. Since everyone’s experience with cancer is different, start by sitting down with your parent and his or her doctor to discuss current and anticipated needs. Ask what to expect during and after treatment. In addition, talk with your parent and develop a caregiving plan​. Such a plan provides a clear course of action for practical needs, such as transportation, grocery shopping and paying bills, as well as for ensuring your parent can participate in favorite hobbies or social outings.

Explore other work arrangements. See if you can rearrange your work schedule or work from home to accommodate your parent’s medical appointments. You may be eligible for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave every 12 months for reasons such as the care of a sick family member.

Delegate responsibilities. Make a list of tasks that other people might be willing to do. Ask friends to provide prepared meals on days when you’re taking mom or dad for treatment. See if another child’s parent can pick up your son or daughter after baseball practice. Check if nearby relatives or neighbors can keep company with your parent for an evening so you can focus on yourself and your family for a few hours.

Have a family meeting. Be honest with your children about their grandparent’s diagnosis. Honesty may help to lessen their anxiety while giving them an opportunity to pitch in. Older kids can help with tasks like preparing dinner, running errands or doing yard work. Younger children can do simpler tasks around the house, which may help them feel valued.

Use technology for greater efficiency. Share an online family calendar so you can track upcoming appointments. Websites like and allow you to share calendars with designated people so they can volunteer for requested tasks. You can also save time by shopping online, including scheduling home grocery delivery.

In addition, don’t forget to make time for your kids, your partner and yourself. Consider scheduling events like a romantic date or family game night on your online calendar. Taking time to recharge and decompress will make all of you better caregivers.

Liz Seegert is an independent health journalist based in New York City.