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Family Forum: The Sandwich Generation

Many of us are raising children while caring for aging parents.

We're called "the sandwich generation," those of us that are caring for both our children and our parents at the same time. With people living longer these days, there are more of us who are part of it.

It seems among my friends the majority are taking care of at least one parent to various extents.  One has her elderly father living with her now; another has a mom who cannot drive and needs a lot of assistance. Doctor visits, shopping and errands are just part of the job description.  

If a parent has Alzheimers, there can be not only a lot of worry and more round-the-clock care needed. Sometimes just finding an aide for a few hours and handling the insurance paperwork can be time consuming. Oftenthe parent's illness requires major decisions about the parent staying in their home versus assisted living or moving in with family. It can be an exhaustive process discussing this, weighing the options, selling a place, clearing out years of accumulated things, et cetera.

Trying to handle all this can be daunting, especially while pulled in the separate direction of one's own children. Caregivers often have little time to themselves with all they have to coordinate and can certainly feel "sandwiched".  One trend I'm noticing is "senior day care" programs popping up. These places are spots where an older parent can safely spend the day in a caring and social atmosphere.  Some are run through hospitals, others through a church or community service organization. This can alleviate some of the constant stress on those of us in the "sandwich generation". It's really a great idea.

Alexandra Zendrian May 11, 2011 at 05:18 PM
I'm watching my mother and her siblings do this kind of running around now and I give anyone who is doing it credit. It must be difficult to in a way constantly be on call with an ailing parent and to juggle that with your own life and children. Does anyone have any tips for doing this effectively?
Cindy Springsteen May 11, 2011 at 05:39 PM
I had to do this for many years and am an only child so it was completely on my shoulders. It is very difficult and especially if your children are young. When the pressures got too much I would call upon my father's friends and they would help out and take him to an appointment or stay at my house so I could get away for a while.
Virginia Gambardella May 12, 2011 at 11:41 AM
I'm an only child,growing up my mother cared for : Her husband Her daughter Her elderly father Her mentally challenged brother Her elderly Mother-in-law -visually impaired A 9 room house No washing machine (we had soapstone tubes in the basement) Clothes lines outside in the warm weather,in the basement in the winter. No cleaning lady She made all her clothing All my clothing Some of her husbands (PJ's bathrobes) Cooked Dinner EVERY night Baked several times a week Never worked after dinner Went out Wednesday night-Friday night The house was never upset She did all the shopping DIDN'T DRIVE (My Dad used the car every day) Didn't spend any time on ther phone Did her own gardening Painted and papered ther inside of the house Made all the curtains Never complained!! Why ? Because she was the most organized person I ever knew-and she was only 5'1"! When my Mother was widowed and didn't want to remain in her home in Commack, I found an apartment on my floor where she lived happily for 16 years,this way she could visit with me every day ,be available for parties with family and friends (yes my friends too) and go on vacations with us. When she moved close to me I made arrangements for her to be included in local clubs and church functions along with me and by herself. This was a pleasure NOT a chore. Remember young women "Where you are now your parents once were, where they are now you will be" Think about that! ,
Alexandra Zendrian May 12, 2011 at 01:38 PM
That's a good idea, Cindy, do lean on your father's friends when you need help. It's always a good idea to know who to turn to when you need help.
Alexandra Zendrian May 12, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Virginia, your mother sounds like an amazing lady. Thanks for your comment and advice.
AnneMarie Cusumano May 12, 2011 at 01:41 PM
AnneMarie Cusumano I have been doing this juggling act for many years now. It does help to be organized and having a great deal of patience ( I confess I don't always have) is a great asset. I'm an only daughter and my mom lives a few blocks away. I am fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband. Many of my friends are going through the same thing. I know that my children are watching how I handle this situation and perhaps one day will be in my place. My mom will soon be 96 so I take it one day at a time, seeing what her needs are and what I must do to help her.
Alexandra Zendrian May 12, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Thanks for your comment, AnneMarie, and it sounds like you're doing a good job. Do you have any tips for your children when they potentially help to take care of you?
AnneMarie Cusumano May 12, 2011 at 01:55 PM
I would hope that they would listen to what I would want, such as staying in my own home etc. I imagine that their decisions would have to be based on my health condition at that time. I am blessed that my children have grown up to be good young adults, so I believe that they will make good decisions for their parents later in life.
Virginia Gambardella May 18, 2011 at 12:10 PM
Advice to the sandwich filling- While your parents are still young enough encourage the following if they are NOT tuned in already: 8 hours sleep Regular healthy meals - most prepared at home Moderate daily exercise At least one or two CLOSE friends Regular doctor and dental checkups Activities and social mixers I'm sure I have missed a few, but you get the idea- these suggestions will keep parents on there own longer. Just an ounce of prevention-it takes less time then the alternative
Alexandra Zendrian May 18, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Thanks for those suggestions, Virginia.

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