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Killed by the Sandwich

I’m among a generation of other people caught up in the middle of caring for children and parents simultaneously. This generation has become known as “The Sandwich Generation.” Much like those pieces of turkey and cheese, I am being squashed by those two pieces of bread.

It seems like things were easier long ago, when families lived closer to each other in the same towns. Back in the day you would have the support of cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, which greatly helped relieve the stresses of people who were taking care of multiple loved ones. Long ago it seemed like neighbors cared more for each other, and communities and families supported each other and were willing to pitch in when times were rough.

My elderly mother’s recent stroke really highlighted the fact that I am all alone in her care. My siblings live in other cities and states. A phone call once a week from them to me or my mother doesn’t do much in the way of relieving the stresses my mother and I both encounter while trying to make sure she is safe, happy and living her golden years in the most fulfilling way possible. Living with the stress and fear that her health and well-being is all on my shoulders alone makes me terrified.

Finding the services and support to care for our elderly in a way that they can stay independent in their homes is an area that is severely lacking in our society. I recently learned that assisted living facilities begin at $2,500 a month. And they don’t take insurance, so this is needed in cash. Some places make you prove your finances ahead of time to show you can pay for two years worth of this cost before they will even consider admitting the elderly person. Medicare facilities, which would pay that cost for the elderly person, are few and far between. And I’m sure the waiting list is incredibly long.

It makes me outraged that the fate of every person will end this way….you work until you retire – if you can afford to do so. Then, you use up the rest of your money living as modestly as you can, and when there is nothing left then you go on Medicare – and hope you can get into a facility that is a decent enough place to live out the rest of your years. It is a sad state of affairs that our golden years ahead may not be so golden after all.

In addition to caring for my mom, I am also raising young kids. They are still at the age where they need me to be there for them for just about everything. And of course I give 150% of myself to them, because I love them and because I am their mother. They do not know how thinly stretched I am also trying to also take care of their grandmother, as well. My elderly mother knows I am her only family member in the area, and she knows I would do as much as I can for her also. But these two forces are pulling in opposite directions making me feel stretched to my limits in the middle.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle of trying to do it all for every family member.  It seems like there are a million silent Generation X’er’s in this same situation. So, where can the Sandwich Generation go for support? We are all quietly struggling to hold our families as close as possible for as long as possible. Considering how many of us there are out here, I’m really surprised this hasn’t received more coverage in the media.

It must be the nurse in me, but I really think there needs to be a way to unite the Sandwich Generation. If our communities and families can’t give us the support we need, perhaps we can give this support to each other. It is amazing how wonderful it can feel just knowing that someone else is out there to listen, support or offer advice or wisdom to you from their own experiences.


About Fortyteen Candles

oh, let's see...distinguished Gen-X'er, frustrated writer, suffocating in the confines of a small town that thinks it's a big deal. A few years ago we were home to the second largest Walmart in our state, don-cha-know. Oh, and I was voted "Most New Wave" in my senior high school year book. Actually, that last sentence alone is really everything you need to know about me.

22 responses »

  1. I feel your stress as you struggle to deal with the hand you’re dealt. Nothing is fair in this present day world. I worked 42 years and had my life’s savings wiped out the first two years of retirement because I had no medical insurance. Being unemployed needs to be declared a crime so you could get help. No one wants to know you when you can’t pay. My doctor even cancelled 7 prescription medications including my blood pressure & diabetes medications. She simply told me to go to a free clinic. Gee, thanks!

    The American government doesn’t recognize the needs of seniors. Shoot, that dumb ass running for the Republican Vice-presidential spot wants to do away with Medicare and food stamps. Where will that leave our elderly & poor?

    All we can do is the best we can. We can love our parents and do the best we can for them. My prayers are with you. – Bob

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. You’re right…all we can do is the best we can do. Our government doesn’t look out for the elderly. Hopefully things will change if we keep pushing for it.Sorry to hear about your own struggles with the healthcare system. Have you ever seen the Michael Moore film “Sicko”? I really recommend it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I completely identify with this post. One of the fortunate things about living in a metro area is that we do have access to a lot of resources when they are needed. We also make sure our youngster helps us with grandma, so she learns how future old people (us) need to be treated! It is a challenge, indeed. I wonder if support of the elderly improves as all the baby boomers become senior citizens, simply by virtue of their numbers, money and political will.

    • That is wonderful that you have your child help take care of gramdma, too. That brings the family closer and helps them see how seniors need to be cared for. Glad to hear you have resources available. I’m hoping things change for seniors and the availability of services. After all, it is our future as well. Thanks for your comments!

  3. This is a tough situation for sure. My parents are self-sufficient still, but my husband’s parents have been having health issues. So hard to look after your own kids, then your parents, and still trying to work full time. And we live in Canada, where most health services are covered. Not everything is though. Feeling your pain. And you are right. People should have more support.

    • Does Canada cover the costs for assisted living for the elderly? I’d love to learn more about how Canada cares for its aging population. Here in the U.S. I feel the elderly are forgotten about. The costs are immense. Very sad. Change is needed desperately. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. My mom was an only child and I grew up with her trying to care for her parents in their final years. It’s a messy thing. Wishing you lots of strength.

  5. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    One of my friends recently came into town to help her mom after surgery. Before leaving for home, she had lined up all the services her mom would need in the coming weeks. Then her mom decided she didn’t need these services. My friend left town with a clear conscience–knowing that she’d done what she could to help, and her mom had made the decision to refuse that help. This taught me that we don’t have to give ourselves a guilt trip, and we can’t let those we’re caring for give us one either.

    • Wow! Her mom refusing services sounds exactly like what my mom did after she came home from a hip replacement last year. It is amazing how much stress parents can put on their kids. I hope to never put my kids through what I’m going through now. I like your last sentence, “This taught me that we don’t have to give ourselves a guilt trip, and we can’t let those we’re caring for give us one either.” I’ll always remember this one. Thanks.

  6. Such a difficult situation. My dad is the oldest of four and, like you, was the only one living in the same city as his parents while they grew older and less self-sufficient. Although I think he felt some resentment toward his siblings, and the stress was sometimes unbelievable, he has few regrets. He cared for the parents who raised him. And when his father’s Alzheimer’s grew severe, and he couldn’t recognize his other children when they flew in for visits, he always knew my father.

    Also, a word from a friend who was left with a similar responsibility. She said there are no “right” or “wrong” decisions. You just make the best choices you can. As a nurse, I’m sure you see that all the time. You seem exceptionally well-equipped to handle these sandwich issues.

    I will also add that my grandmother came to live with us for her final months when I was a teenager. I will never forget that. You’re teaching your children immensely important lessons by caring for your mother with them by your side.

    Best of luck to you… I’m thinking of you and wish you the very, very best.

    • I feel the pain of the stressful burden your father was under. Your friend is right….all you can do is make the best choices you can. Your memories of your grandmother taught you the importance of families caring for one another. It was wonderful you had that time to share with her. Thank you for your thoughts and support 🙂

  7. Fortyteen, your timing is amazing. I checked into a couple of blogs as a way to relax after spending hours helping my mother-in-law move into assisted living. Oh, dear. It is all so difficult.

    It is an incredibly difficult problem. Can you imagine if Romney gets in and we revert Medicare to vouchers. ….

    • Wow! I’m glad your mother in law was able to settle into an assisted living facility. It must have been an incredibly stressful process for you and your family. Did she want to go? My mom refuses to have anything to do with “seniors” and won’t discuss it, unfortunately. At least your mother in law is safe and being looked after. Those places are so expensive…difficult to imagine how much money is being made off the elderly.

  8. Go ahead,everything will be OK in the end

  9. Very interesting post… 😉

  10. I so feel your pain. And you have a great idea – maybe a blog dedicated to that? Seems like all the ones I can find out there are sponsored by someone who sells something.

  11. My parents aren’t old enough, yet, to run in to these issues, but my sis and I are well aware that they loom in the not so distant future. I think we need to rebuild some of that community we’ve lost. Perhaps find others in similar situations and get together from emotional and practical support. (Think mommy’s groups and play dates, but for adults and maybe the elderly too. Depression often is another issue in the elderly b/c their friends die, and social lives dwindle to nothing.) This is just a random musing. 🙂


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