Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 12, 2005
Squished sandwich generation
Stress slams boomers caught for caring for parents, children
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Providing ongoing care to an aging or disabled family member can be challenging and heartbreaking. I recently read an email written by my wife, LaRee, to our adult daughter. LaRee explained that middle age is proving to be a joyful and sad time for her. My wife was "venting."
LaRee's life is a juggling act: On one hand, she is a supportive grandmother of our two small grandchildren who are a constant source of joy and laughter. On the other hand, LaRee is caring for her frail, aged mother, and a disabled husband with degenerative multiple sclerosis.
Caught in the middle
This brings sadness and tears to her. She feels sandwiched between the people in her family living at both ends of the life spectrum. She's caught in the middle.
On top of it all, she must make a living to supplement my modest disability pension.
LaRee is part of a growing demographic group known as The Sandwich Generation. (She's the best looking sandwich I've ever seen!) LaRee's own needs are often neglected as she tends to the needs and wants of others.
In my own advancing state of MS, there's little I can do to allay the incredible pressures LaRee is experiencing. In fact it is frustrating to know that I cause much of her grief and many of her tears.
But I am acutely aware of the pressures upon the love of my life. I worry in silence about her while she worries (often silently) about me (and others). And so we find ourselves in two solitudes of silence, just like many other boomers find themselves in similar solitudes with loved-ones.
Who cares for the caregivers? I wish there was a Sandwichers and Fretters Club for people like LaRee.
Their objective would be to break down barriers of isolation - be they perceived or real-for family caregivers. Sandwichers and fretters (S&Fers) could meet occasionally as a support group to talk about their challenges, sorrows and successes as caregivers to aging or disabled loved-ones.
Throughout long cold winter months, S&Fers would get together in someone's cozy home, or a church with a fireplace, to talk, share and "vent." It could have a social aspect as various sandwichers and fretters would be assigned the task of bringing - yes, you guessed it - sandwiches and fritters from the local donut shop.
The agenda would always be the same: 1. Call meeting to order with prayer around warm crackling fire. 2. Put another log on fire. 3. Friendship and venting. 4. Adjourn. 5. Consume sandwiches and fritters.
Sharing and support
Frustrations, heartaches and victories of caregivers could be shared with each other in a supportive atmosphere of mutual understanding and friendship-germinated by the warmth of Christian love and concern.
In my silly illustration about S&Fers, I am trying to make a case for a fellowship of the heavy-hearted who are being pulled in many directions by life's circumstances.
Baby boomers caring for loved-ones fading from age or struggling with disability can find themselves with a tough-row-to-hoe. Coming together informally with other caregivers who experience similar heartaches and soul-pain can make the "hoeing" a little easier.
Yes, there is comfort in knowing that other middle age sons and daughters have been called to parent a parent or nurse a spouse or care for grandchildren of a divorced child. Caregivers can find themselves overcome by tears in their lonesome daily routines driving from work to home or nursing home.
A couple of years ago, I started an organization called HumanLifeMatters as a Christian outreach ministry for people with disabilities, and their families. (See our website: www.humanlifematters.com) HLM can provide opportunities for people who are family caregivers to meet and support each other.
If there is a caregiver reading this column who feels spread dangerously thin in sandwiched roles as grandparent and parent, or parenting a parenting, contact HLM (780) 929-9231. HumanLifeMatters would be happy to host an evening for sandwichers and fretters. Perhaps local parishes might coordinate respite care, if required for family members, while their caregivers and fretters meet.
It is not good that caregivers bear their burdens alone. HLM wants to encourage emotional and spiritual support groups where people can share their sorrows, challenges and victories in caring for aging or disabled family members. No experts. No expectations.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.