Parents’ care overwhelming

Published 9:30 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The term “Sandwich Generation,” coined in 1982, refers to the segment of middle-aged population that provides support to both children and older family members. According to the Pew Research Center, that equates to just over one of every eight Americans aged 40 to 60, in addition to between seven million and 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a distance.

Often it is the adult daughter who finds herself sandwiched between two generations needing her care. For most women, caring for an aging family member adds to an already full schedule of home and occupational requirements, and these women frequently admit they suffer from mental and physical exhaustion. They also suffer from loneliness, because the enormity of daily tasks prevents them from enjoying quality time with anyone.

If you are one of those women, you probably also suffer from a nagging guilt that you are not doing enough for everyone and heartbreak from watching a loved one grow increasingly more dependent. It is difficult for everyone involved.


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The elderly, themselves, also report suffering from guilt and resentment from being what they perceive as a burden. They may also be reluctant to share their problems with you for fear of losing their independence, their homes, their pets and their possessions. The elderly may hide their struggles with remembering medications and fixing their own meals in order to avoid a nursing home.

What can you do about all of this? How can you care for elder family members so they can retain their independence, so you can maintain your own sanity and so everyone can retain their quality of life?

You can get help. Whether that comes from siblings, your church, friends, extended family, Social Services or hired services, you will need more than the resources of one person to ensure your elder family member is safe and well, because you also have a responsibility that you, your spouse and your children have the attention and care that they need. It is important to realize, no matter what responsibility you feel, that caring for three generations is not the same task that it was 100 years ago.

It’s also essential to educate yourself on aging and how to look for signs that seniors need care for which they are unable to ask, either because of embarrassment or fear of losing their homes, friends, pets, possessions and independence.

In addition, you may want to hire a professional — one trained to recognize and respond to trouble — to come in once a week. Hiring such a person has many other benefits, too, such as giving you more quality time to spend with your family, replete with peace of mind.