Many of us are lucky enough to have our parents at an older age and it’s a wonderful blessing. There are so many life events we are able to share with them. But as our elders live to more advanced-age, there are inevitable challenges we must navigate. Helping them remain active and independent is no easy task for us, the sandwich generation. Parental aging brings uncertainty, concern and even fear for caregivers and family members.
How often have you heard something similar to the following concerns I’ve recently heard from friends and family:
“Sometimes she takes her medicine and still asks me when it’s time to take her medicine.”
“He can’t play the card games with the guys and they don’t know how to tell him.”
“Dad & Mom need help in the house, but he says he can take care of her on his own. He refuses to allow anyone from outside to help.”
“I went in the house and peeked in the oven and found all the bills from the last six months were in there, unopened.”
It feels like everywhere I go these days, a friend or peer is confiding in me about this issue. They’re finding it difficult being part of the “sandwich” generation. Many of us are finishing raising our own children and now it feels like we’re “raising” our aging parents who need our attention. The differences however, are acute. With our kids we had play dates, preschool, and shelves of parenting books to help us. With aging parents, we confide in each other but don’t know the how to talk about the situation or even what questions to ask. We tred lightly, not wanting to violate our parents’ privacy or take away their dignity. My own Mom says this is a new phenomenon; her parents’ generation didn’t live to advanced age, and hence there weren’t as many concerns.
Now, our generation is in the era of “Parents, Inc.” Instead of taking our kids to doctor appointments we’re going with our parents. We used to worry about our teenage drivers, now we’re uneasy about our parents driving. With each phone call, the concerns start over again.
We’re delighted our parents are living out their lives with us, and we are determined to help them navigate the new waters. One of my goals as President of the Board of Jewish Family Services has been to help others like me who have felt alone, overwhelmed or in need of guidance in this arena. I know, from firsthand experience, that JFS has a full cadre of services and experienced professionals to help guide us. Others need to know this too!
This “As I See It” column was originally published in the Kansas City Star.