Many parents struggle not just with childcare, but also with ageing parents. The so-called sandwich generation often finds itself pulled in two different directions, but an Australian university has developed two free online courses where they can find the information and support they need in one place.
Deakin University experts have developed the courses on the FutureLearn social learning platform.
Professor Alison Hutchinson from Deakin School of Nursing and Midwifery and lead educator for Caring for Older People: a Partnership Model, said: “For adult children caring for elderly parents, having their own children to look after as well presents added responsibilities that are often hard to juggle with work and other commitments. For this group, sometimes referred to as ‘the sandwich generation’, being able to engage with formal care providers and health professionals in a meaningful way and having a partnership approach to care can potentially help alleviate some of the stress.”
Professor Karen Campbell, lead educator for Infant Nutrition: from Breastfeeding to Baby’s First Solids and a member of Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said increasingly parents were juggling a whole host of responsibilities at the same time as raising children and often faced conflicting advice.
“Parents might both be working, and while grandparents can often be called on to help, for many families they can also be the ones requiring extra care themselves,” she said.
“So when you add this to the concerns we know new parents feel about getting their infant’s nutrition right, it can be a very stressful time. The great thing about this course is that parents can enrol alongside child care workers, health care professionals and grandparents. And it’s a platform where you can talk with other parents who might be facing similar challenges.”
She added: I think it’s valuable to consider the lifecourse when discussing health. Our learners sit within families and broader social networks where the older and younger mix freely.”
The courses can be completed at the learner’s own convenience and include articles, videos, quizzes and online discussions with educators and fellow students.
The infant nutrition course focuses on the first year of a baby’s life and covers cultural preferences and expectations around the world regarding breastfeeding, formula feeding, and when, how and what foods are introduced in the first year.
Campbell says it is vital that women get support from their employers when they return to work. “For women this is a key issue influencing the support of continued breastfeeding. A family friendly workplace is known to be very important in supporting women’s continuation with work while in their childbearing years,” she says.
The two-week elder care MOOC focuses on improving collaboration among all parties – the older person, their family and staff.
Professor Hutchinson said: “The aim of the course is to help build stronger, more beneficial relationships between older people and those who care for them.”
Professor Campbell thinks there are many similarities between caring for older people and children, such as potentially high levels of dependency and uncertainty in the volume and timing of demands.
Professor Hutchinson added that in addition older people have life experiences and wisdom which need to be respected and acknowledged. “Their experiences are likely to have a big influence on their expectations of those caring for them,” she stated.