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Ahhh, the Sandwich Generation. Nope, not talking about growing up eating PB&J…how I wish I were. No, I’m talking about those of us who are a part of the Sandwich Generation – taking care of both our kids and our parents…at the same time.
Are you one of them? If not, I bet you know one, maybe more than one. According to an infographic created for Northwest Primary Care, one out of every eight Americans between the ages of 40-60 are both raising a child and caring for a parent….
A fact I have no doubt is true, in fact I know a few.
And I happen to be one.
Who are these caregivers?
- Female – check
- In her mid-40’s – check(ish)
- Married – check
- Employed – check
Yep, that’s me, I’ve hit all four boxes. Congratulations me – I’m a part of the Sandwich Generation.
Frankly, I’ve got it easy, all things considered. I’m one of the lucky ones; truly, my dear Mom is shouldering the bulk of the caregiving for my Dad, and she’s in good health. Even so, I’m getting a healthy dose.
My dear old Dad has been battling stage IV colon cancer for over five years – an amazing outcome all things considered. Sadly, the disease has progressed and he’s transitioned into home hospice care in March.
Amazingly, he’s continued to defy the odds. According to statistics cited in the book “Changing The Way We Die: Compassionate End of Life Care and The Hospice Movement” (fascinating read, by the way), the median stay in hospice is just 19 days (with 36% passing in less than a week).
Not my dad, he’s more than 119 days in – another amazing outcome. But it’s taking its toll.
And, it’s getting harder.
It’s Not Just The Disease
Let’s be frank, watching a loved one decline is awful. It’s sad, it’s scary, it’s depressing. And let me tell you, it’s exhausting. Every day worrying about their caloric intake, their pain levels, their ability to care for themselves, their dignity, their mental state, their wishes, their dreams, their fears…it’s never ending, and it’s every single day.
And for me, it’s not just caring for and worrying about my Dad, the harder part might just be supporting everyone else. Of course, there’s Mom. My Mom, the matriarch, the strong one, the one who we all assume will be okay because she’s always been okay.
There are my siblings, each of us with thoughts, opinions, coping mechanisms of our own.
There are my kids, trying to wrap their heads around being around their beloved Grandad.
There are my aunts and uncles who are watching from afar and who are relying on me to relay information to them.
And the list continues, my friends, their friends, my co-workers, their co-workers, all wanting to know how Dad is doing. All with the best of intentions, but exhausting to deal with.
So How Am I Coping?
Honestly? It’s day to day and some days better than others. But that’s a separate issue. Back to the issue at hand, how is this Momma coping? Frankly, it’s different every day. A few of the highlights…
And maybe some lowlights….
Escaping – In some ways, I’m lucky, I work full time, and I’m a mom, that in and of itself is an amazing escape. It allows me to think about something, anything, other than what’s happening. Denial, I suppose.
Being there – I’m making it a habit to see my Dad at least once a week, more than that recently. Is it hard? Hell yes, but I want to spend as much time as possible with him while I still can. And, I want to give my Mom a break.
Remembering – Sadly, I watched my own spouse pass away 15+ years ago. But living through it and coming through relatively unscathed, that experience has shaped who I am today and in turn, how I’m handling this.
Sharing – I’m a sharer, over-sharer probably. But sharing helps me process what’s happening and my feelings about it. Talking about it allows me to find alternate perspectives. And I have an amazing tribe of women who build me up and support me. Every.Single.Day
Writing – Maybe this belongs in the sharing category, but I’m writing. I’m writing…a lot. Notes, posts, letters, blog posts – just getting it all down on paper seems to help.
Drinking – The power of a cocktail (or two, maybe three) can be an amazing thing…don’t judge.
Crying – Some days it’s simply tears, or being on the verge. Usually in the shower. Try it, it’s amazing.
Surviving – And most days, simply putting one foot in front of the other is all I can do. And that’s okay.
So, my fellow soldiers in the Sandwich Generation army, my apologies if you were looking for magic tricks to make caregiving easier…I’m sure there are some, but this gal is just trying to cope and make it through, one day at a time.