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Sandwich Generation: Feeling Torn in Two

Posted by E.C. Davis

I’ve spoken to many parents through our 1-on-1 Coaching Service who are feeling literally torn apart.  On one hand, they have a parent who is critically ill or needs long term care.  They might be living with them, or be in assisted living in a retirement facility. At home, World War III is playing out with their adolescents, who are continually engaging in risky behavior and fighting with them. In another scenario, the kids may be dealing with a critical illness or addiction while the sandwich generation parent’s aging relatives depend on them.

We can all grasp the emotional toll this can take on anyone. But taking it a step further, what about the impact on their financial, social, legal and personal health? The stress is tremendous. Many of the people I have spoken to on the parent Support Line are dealing with their own serious health issues because of the strain.

There are many daily details that create stress for care givers. Currently I am dealing with a sick adult child and an elderly parent in a retirement community. I feel so fortunate to know that my mom is safe, but I still  feel a great deal of pressure to spend as much time with her as possible. In the mean time, I have my adult child’s laundry to keep up with, groceries and prescriptions to deliver, and at times, I help him clean his apartment.  There are medical bills to organize and pay. This child will need to move home for awhile until he is well enough to go back to work. What a difficult thing for any adult child or parent to deal with.

For awhile, I thought my situation was the exception. I thought none of my peers were dealing with this type of overwhelming family care.  It was difficult to find time to catch up with friends, but when I did, I finally realized that what I was dealing with was more the norm than I thought.  One of my close friends is dealing with the fall-out from her elderly parent getting scammed out of a lot of money. The perpetrator was sent to jail, but the damage was done and the question of how to safe guard her parent’s finances became the desperate focus.

Another close friend was dealing with one parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while the other parent, who was the caretaker, had a stroke. All of a sudden, they needed round the clock care and my friend was forced to take a leave of absence from work to move them into an assisted living facility and hire some help. Being a single mom without help from siblings, she then began the arduous task of selling her parents’ house to pay for their care.  Many yard sales later and endless hours of sorting and cleaning her parent’s belongings, she was finally able to do it.

In the process, my friend modeled how to ask for help for me.  She sent out emails to all of her friends asking if they could help organize the yard sales and be there for the day. The outpouring of love and help was amazing! It was also an eye-opener for me, because all of her friends had similar stories.

I continue to struggle with asking for help. None of us can do this on our own with all the commitments we have. As Paula Banks says in The Elder Care Revolution:

“Families and caregivers need help today. Getting that help is not easy.  When something happens to your elderly loved one, you find yourself feeling like you need to become a doctor, a lawyer, a financial planner, a social worker, and a psychologists overnight.”

For those of us struggling with caregiving two generations, or just one, Paula gives resources to help lighten our load and give us some direction. Having the facts, the support, and a new sense of community has given me hope and strength.

I realize it’s going to be quite a challenge in the long term. Again, I feel honored to be one of my Mom’s caregivers and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also adore my children, adult or child, and naturally need to be a part of their recovery.  I am just grateful to know that I don’t have to go through this alone.  None of us do.

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