We are called The Sandwich Generation
According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition to between 7 to 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a long distance. US Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of older Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.
Merriam-Webster officially added the term “Sandwich Generation” to its dictionary in July 2006.
Since I am still in my mid- (OK… late-) 30s, I am technically not a member of this group. Yet I’ve earned my early admittance into this club since I have been acting in this capacity for over 10 years. As I share the term The Sandwich Generation with others, I often get the same reaction – “Wow, I’ve never heard of it but it makes a lot of sense… it really does explain a lot and provides a helpful perspective!”.
I’m hoping my blog will help me reach others who are facing similar challenges and we can help each other improve our own well-being through support and encouragement.
This is my story…
My parents are in their late 60s and my mom has Alzheimer’s (Yes, I know she’s really too young for Alzheirmer’s… yes, it does suck… and yes, life is not fair). She was diagnosed over 5 years ago and has remained relatively stable during this time. Since her degeneration has not followed a normal path, she is caught in this in-between stage where she is neither independent nor sick enough to want to accept care. For 5 years she has been stuck in this painful fear/denial phase which we pray will transition to a more productive phase but hasn’t yet. My father is her full-time caretaker and ultimate decision maker for all things related to either one of them. While he is in great physical health, his emotional well-being has steadily deteriorated over time and he still has not dealt with the loss of his life partner. You can imagine that the impact of the disease and their daily struggles have taken a toll on their loved ones – their kids, their siblings and their friends (the few that still remain).
While I don’t participate in their physical care, I am one of their primary caretakers for emotional needs. This is a tough situation to be in since I am essential to their emotional wellbeing but not a decision-maker for anything related to their physical care. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know these two are tightly connected and I find myself often fighting losing battles.
On the other hand, I am blessed with two wonderful children and THE BEST husband (I am not exaggerating…REALLY). My kids are healthy and growing into amazing little people but, like all kids their age, depend on mom and dad for both their physical and emotional well-being. My husband is an equal partner in the raising of our kids and an ever-present source of support for my parents.
And then there is me… stuck in this constant struggle to find balance. I want to be at least as good a wife and mother as my mom was. I want to honor my parents by being there for them like they were for me. I want to be a good example to my children by taking care of myself, mind and body.
I find myself often doing nothing well but I never give up. I always believe tomorrow will be better. When I do things well, I try to pat myself in the back but my type A personality often shines through and reminds me of how I could have done it better. Guilt… Guilt… Guilt!
Anyone have any suggestions on how to quiet the guilt while keeping the balance?