Dementia, It’s Here Tuesday, Dec 23 2014 

I knew this time in my life would come, but always held out hope it would not. I think I am really an optimist hiding behind the ‘glass is the wrong size’ philosophy. It is never half full or half empty, but something is sure going on with the darn glass. I am stuck between my feelings of obligation and my ‘why me’ selfishness. I want to do the right thing, but cannot decide exactly what that right thing is.

I’ve been down this path before. The ‘take care of an elderly parent’ path. If anyone ever read my earlier blog entries, I wrote about it. How my Hubs and I spent 12 years assisting my mother in law through the various stages of Alzheimer’s decline, how that impacted us, our immediate family, and how we recovered. Yes, recovered. Because we didn’t assist from a distance with our lives continuing on without interruption. Our lives were completely disrupted and we were not able to continue normal daily functions of family life as so many other did at the time. Because for them it was someone else’s problem to take on and handle. (This is the ‘don’t get me started’ part of the post.)

Which is why now that my Mother, at the age of 77, has been diagnosed with dementia, and is showing definite memory loss, I find myself once again heading down the assistance path. And feeling some conflict, obligation and selfishness.

This time is different for a few reasons. The first item is that both my parents are involved. With my mother in law, it was just her and there was no balancing act between two people to consider. As strange as that might sound to someone not dealing with this type of issue, it really makes a difference to be able to make decisions without having to consider another elderly patient. What was best for her as her dementia worsened was all there was to consider. The second item is that I carry childhood baggage into the mix. I am ‘the child’ regardless of my physical age, and some of the old hurts and feelings bubble to the surface as we start to navigate the changes mental and physical disease is placing on both of them. As an example, Mom’s new blank look (when she doesn’t understand something or is trying to process something, which now takes longer) is very, very similar to the look of disapproval she graced on me when I was a child and I have found myself feeling extremely six/eight/eleven on more than one occasion.

Another element to the situation is the new, or should I say different level of interaction with my two siblings. I do not plan on doing all that is and will be needed to be done on my own. I, as the oldest and only girl, have typically been the one is charge of parent issues in the past. And there have been some. But this is a long term, multi level problem and more than a little bit of assistance is required.

So bottom line is that Mom and Dad understand they need assistance. However, their idea of assistance and their level of cooperation versus what their offspring think is required, are not lining up. And that’s where things are right now.

We all lead busy lives, including working full time and wonder how providing the required and appropriate level of assistance is going to impact us.  As I stated earlier, I am stuck between obligated and selfish.

I am the Sandwich Friday, Oct 4 2013 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandwich_generation

The Sandwich generation is a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.

According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition to between 7 to 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a long distance. US Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of older Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.

Carol Abaya categorized the different scenarios involved in being a part of the sandwich generation.

  • Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
  • Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
  • Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care. [1]

Merriam-Webster officially added the term to its dictionary in July 2006.

The term “sandwich generation” was coined by Dorothy A Miller in 1981. [2]

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My eldest son, mid 30’s and his son, 5, moved out of our home this last weekend.  They have been living with us for almost 2 years.  The joy of having that level of access to my grandson was tempered by being his parent much of the time, versus just being able to be his “Granny”.  My husband and I often had a differing opinions on how things involving our grown child and his child should be treated within our home, adding an additional level of stress to the situation.  But we made it though that phase of the sandwich, and looked forward to having our home and our time delegated back to ‘us’.  We joked about relearning how to have a two person conversation, how to cook a two person meal, about cooking meals we liked vs those the picky 5 yr old would eat, how we’d spent time ..just the two of us…..and so on.   It is a nice dream.  The financial side of the situation is ongoing, but that is another topic.

So, on day two of our ‘freedom’, when my parents called, upset and needing my help, I should not have been surprised.  We didn’t even get a week of ‘just us’ before other responsibilities pressed us back into service.  My parents are aging, not in the best of health, and are quick to call on me, rather than either of my brothers, when they want or need something.  There is a thin line between want and need.  I think they call me because 1) I am female and they are of that generation that believes that caregivers are female, 2) I am the oldest 3) I’ve been down this road before with  my mother in law and 4) I find a way to do what they want if I can.

My husband and I have been ‘the sandwich’ for so many years now, providing care for members of his family and mine, that I do not recall a time when we were not taking care of an aunt/parent/grandparent/sibling and a child at the same time.  It started in our 20’s and we are in our mid 50’s now.  We were the sandwich before there was a sandwich.  We’ve been able to regroup in the small gaps between, but each round it gets harder and harder to reconnect and adjust.   Since we only get one round on this planet, I’d like to assert, we’ve done our time caring for others and we need a break.  But reality is, that is not going to happen.  Buck up, Ms. Sandwich.  This one is a toasty footlong with extra cheese.