Monday, January 08, 2007

Sandwich Generation Worries

Is it me or is this issue of the “Sandwich Generation” not talked about much? It seems to me that it is not talked about enough.

I am happy to have had extended relatives alive and in my life for so long. Presently I have two grandmothers living, one is 88 and the other is 96. I am blessed to have both parents alive as well.

When we love a person we put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. We are then at jeopardy for hurt.

It is hard to see relatives grow old and get sick. It is hard to see people change from the vibrant people they once were into weaker, less able-bodied and sometimes more foggy headed than they used to be. It is hard to see their physical bodies fail and to hear them tell of the daily pain they are living with. Knowing they are suffering is not easy to hear or to contemplate.

Dealing with medical professionals is another whole issue to deal with. Getting feeble bodied people out of the house and into the doctor’s offices is not always easy. My grandmother keeps talking about the ‘good old days’ when doctors did house calls. There is nothing like that anymore (around here). The elderly are at risk for further injury just trying to get to doctor’s offices for appointments. One wrong step can lead to a fractured hip or bone and a life in convalescence.

If things continue like this with our society I am not sure what will happen. The more women work outside the home (and for longer into their lives) the less they are available to help elderly family members. A whole new industry could crop up just surrounding getting the elderly shut-in’s their groceries, prescriptions and taking them to doctor’s appointments.

One of my grandmothers (aged 88) is nearing a time when she may have to enter a nursing home. She wished to remain in her home and independent. She now recognizes that she needs a certain level of care that cannot be given by herself and the visiting nurse. It does not help matters that she is unwilling to move in to live with her own child or a grandchild. She does not want to be “a burden” on anyone. To boot, not all of the homes we occupy are outfitted with bedrooms on a first floor, with easy access to a car or with easy access to a bathroom.

I am not sitting and complaining of the inconvenience in my life to help sick and elderly relatives (but I have to listen to other relatives complain about this, and their lack of compassion saddens and angers me).

My heart goes out to my elderly relatives and their predicament. Seeing them in that way makes me feel grateful for my own good health and for my able-bodied-ness (which I usually take for granted). I am willing to help in any way that I can. Still it is hard to feel the sad emotions to see elderly relatives sick and getting more feeble, to see their bodies breaking down, and their mood swings, their altered emotions due to insomnia and/or living with daily pain.

My first instinct is to offer to help in any way I can. I can’t fix their bodies or restore their youth. There is only so much that I can do. I wish I could do more for them or to help take their hurt away.

Then there are the sad emotions that I am feeling. At times I feel selfish, feeling sorry for myself and already missing them when I think that they soon may pass on; I should be thinking of them and realizing their suffering makes them feel worse, and instead, hoping they find relief or a cure or peace when they pass on.

Through all of this I am supposed to continue functioning at a certain level of “business as usual”. The world is still spinning, the clock is still ticking, life is happening all around me and things in my little own family need tending. I have no time to wallow in sadness or self-pity. I try not to worry as what good does that do? I offer my help and do what I can. Little empathy is given by my friends and relatives. Until a person goes through this, they have no clue what it is like (similar to a woman giving birth and also what it is like to be a parent).

Today started off with a bang with my paternal grandmother complaining of a new severe pain in her hip which she thought was a hip fracture. Early this morning she proclaimed she expected that the visiting nurse would advise an ER visit with an ambulance transport for evaluation of the hip pain. She thought it would then lead to a hospital admission and then directly to a nursing home admission, where she’d live for the rest of her life. This morning she began putting her financial affairs in order and trying to say good-bye to her home and to her two pet cats. It was all very depressing. I could not help much in person as I was just diagnosed with strep throat and am still contagious, so I should stay away from her (with her numerous open ulcers on her legs it could be quite dangerous or even life or limb threatening if my infection spreads to her). So the only comfort and help I could give was to listen to her as she spoke to me on the phone. It was a helpless feeling, especially when I saw other relatives refusing to help out in simple ways.

My father-in-law’s health is declining as well as of yesterday and today, but to keep confidentiality I will refrain from sharing details. Today brought some news that it is not safe for him to be driving himself anywhere any longer. I feel terrible for him and his health also. My husband is sad, I think, and I continue to keep trying to keep his spirits up. That is another whole energy draining endeavor and it is my desire to do it.

So that is what is on my mind today.

And I was also thinking that by definition we’ve been living in unemployment family crisis for over 3.5 years and been living in medical crisis for 15 months with one relative, went through Breast Cancer with my mother (cured, it seems, so far), and now the failing health of my paternal grandmother is being dealt with. I don’t know when these crises will end but it really is getting to be way too much to handle in addition to homeschooling and mothering my children!

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Pat said...

Christine, there is actually a lot out there on the sandwich generation. I think we don't notice it until we are in the middle of it. I know I didn't. Now, grappling with issues of being a long-distance care giver, I feel I'm becoming an expert. Visit my blog at

Judy Aron said...

Been there done this too.. just take one day, one thing, at a time.
Taking care of kids and aging relatives simultaneously is difficult work but it's good work, it's important work, and in the end can be quite satisfying. Make time for yourself, recharge your batteries when needed and the rest will fall into place. I believe that these experiences have a purpose. Remember that as you care for your aging family members that you are also modeling to your children something that they can never learn from a book.

christinemm said...

Judy thank you for the link to that story, it made me cry.

christinemm said...

Judy thank you for the link to that story, it made me cry.