As of late 2010, one out of every eight Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for an aging parent. This number is getting bigger and bigger as baby boomers reach retirement age. Aging parents may find they haven’t saved enough for their retirement or long-term care, or perhaps a tragedy or illness caused unexpected needs. Those caregivers in the middle have been dubbed the “Sandwich Generation.” 75 MILLION people serve as caregivers for family. The number of those 65 years of age and older will double by the year 2030.
I am one such caregiver. As a 40-something, single mom of three teenagers, I found myself unexpectedly in a role of caregiver for both of my parents. My dad needed care due to a severe Traumatic Brain Injury as a result of a massive 20 + care pile up. My mom was already disabled and needed care due to cancer and losing my dad as her caregiver. After two and a half years in this “Sandwich” role, I have learned that it can be incredibly difficult to watch your parents become so dependent on someone else. Both parents lived with my kids and me as their disabilities and financial standing made it impossible for them to live on their own. Some things I did to help ease the pain and help give them a sense of independence included:
- Giving them choices about things such as what to watch on TV, what movies to see or meal planning.
- Giving my mom some control over one area of her life through her ability to order the food she wanted through a grocery store that delivered.
- Modifying my home bathrooms, doors and rooms for greater disability access. All modifications were either their suggestions or significant contributions to the end result.
- Remembering they are the parent. Having clear communication and remaining respectful in all situations. While there were times I was angry with them for this or that, I remembered they are my elders and I wanted them to have dignity.
- Being supportive. Sometimes, losing the ability to think, make decisions, drive, live alone, walk, talk, shower, cook, eat, or get dressed can cause a range of emotions we can’t understand unless we’ve been there. Sometimes, I would just sit and listen to them. That alone provided a safe and supportive environment for them.
It is never ever easy to assume responsibility for one or both parents while raising your children. It’s less ideal when everyone lives in the same house! These are just a few things I did to promote their overall physical, emotional and mental well being.
To Unconditional Love,
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