Sandwich Generation. Noun. A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing up their own children and for the care of their aging parents.
At forty-eight, I am the father to an eight-year-old daughter and the son to a seventy-two-year-old father and a seventy-year-old mother. I am most definitely the sandwich generation.
Up until recently this wasn’t a problem. I know in previous blogs I have discussed my father’s medical condition. Short version is that he is a spinal cord injury patient with the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. He requires round the clock care and my mother, along with a great team of home health professionals, have been providing him with that.
I have always been available to help them out as well. That is one of the reasons I was so insistent on moving my family back to Fredericksburg four years ago. My wife and I found a house to rent that’s only ten minutes away from them. Many times, I have received the call in the middle of the night to come over and help them out with whatever situation has arisen. And it’s always, always at night.
Recently things have gotten worse. Now mom is the one in the hospital. She went in on Mother’s Day with severe back pain. She was admitted to the hospital and stayed there for most of the following week. During that time, I arranged for someone to be at the house round the clock to help take care of dad. Mom was able to come home the following weekend.
She was told to get some rest and take it easy. The help I had arranged for dad was now also there to take care of mom as well. We had hoped it would just be for a week or two. Last Wednesday I got the call that mom was taking another ambulance trip to the ER. As of this morning se is still there.
So, I am taking up the mantle of main caregiver for my parents and for my family. It’s not easy. If you’ve never had to do it, I hope you never do. If you have, then we know what each other is going through. It is not a fun experience. Trying to balance work and take care of parents is difficult and sometimes frustrations can build and boil over when they shouldn’t.
Last Friday I snapped at my boss. We were discussing updates to our website. We are both passionate about the work we do and want the best for our patients. I was out of line. I’ve been told I need to take time off to deal with all this, but I really don’t know what I would do with the time.
I like to have a plan. Right now, there is no plan. I could be wasting my time off sitting and waiting when I’d really need it later on. Now is just frustration. My mom feels it as well. They keep doing all these tests and can’t seem to tell her much more. So, she’s frustrated. My sister and uncles are frustrated. My dad doesn’t know where mom is, and he’s frustrated.
Saturday was the worst. I don’t know if it was the medications, the lack of food and sleep, the pain or any combination of those, but she had a breakdown in the hospital. I had to go over and help get her calmed down. I’ve never seen her like hat before. I as supposed to go over and relieve our help with Dad but had to deal with this first.
I got my wife and daughter to go over and sit with my dad until I could get there. As I left the hospital to go over and stay with Dad, a terrible wave of loneliness and sadness swept over me. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I hadn’t talked to anyone that wasn’t either asking how mom was or was taking care of mom.
If family history is any indication, my parents’ health conditions are only going to linger on for years to come. Dad isn’t going to get better. Mom will continue to have health issues. I watched this go on for years with both my Grandparents. When my last grandparent died, my mom was hoping she’d have some time with my dad to enjoy. Dad seemed to decline sharply a few months after Grandpa died. So much for their quality time together.
All my grandparents were in their eighties or nineties when they died. If history holds true, I’ll be close to seventy when my parents die. In a very cold, dark part of my mind I am envious of my wife. Both of her parents passed away after very short hospital stays. They didn’t have medical problems that would plague them for years.
I really wish this vicious cycle of my family being reliant on the next generation to care for them and watch them slowly slip away would end. Through science, we can keep people alive much longer than we could generations ago. But at what cost?
I know this is supposed to be a weight loss blog, but this week other things took precedence. My diet sucked. I’ve eaten what I could when I could. Sometimes I was too tired to make anything. Iced coffee has been getting me through the long hours. I haven’t been getting a good night’s sleep. I feel asleep on the dog the other day. She didn’t seem to mind.
I feel constantly exhausted. It seems that just sitting with either one of my parents now saps my energy. I do enjoy the escape I get from work. I know that I’m not working at my best capacity right now, but it gets my mind off of things for a little while.
The other thing that really gets me is when people say “If there is anything we can do, please let us know”. I don’t know how to answer that. What are people really willing to do?
But I digress. It’s been a long week. I’m sorry if I’ve been rambling. These are all the thoughts I’ve been dealing with this last week. It has to get better.
Have a good week everyone.
Written by: Craig Repanshek