On the Sandwich Generation

Most people somewhere between the ages of 40 and 65 are known as the Sandwich Generation. We are caught between two generations! Somewhere in here we finish up raising our children but then are faced with caring for our aging parents.

This is not as easy as it sounds. For some, this reversal of roles stirs up old hurts and unfinished business. Perhaps the parent you care for wasn’t that good a parent, negectful perhaps, even abusive. Yet now they need your care.

Even if you were blessed with a decent relationship with your parents, this caretaking does not come easily.

My father had a stroke in 1994 and, 6 months later, my mother died of cancer. My Dad did well for 2 years but it became clear that, if he were willing to move to El Paso, I’d be better able to care for him. To my surprise, he was willing to leave the town he’d lived in for over 80 years.

During the 4 years he lived in El Paso, he had 2 more strokes we know of. His temper got him kicked out of one facility. And he developed dementia, that state where slowly, slowly a person loses his past. When I would come home from visiting him at the nearby assisted living facility, my wife would often note I was sad. Indeed I was. I’d lost my mother suddenly to cancer. My Dad I was losing a little at a time. In some ways, that was more painful. There would be little gaps in memory, mistakes in his checkbook, hygiene problems.

Losing him became more poignant towards the end. The last visit I had with him was a day before he fell and lapsed into unconsciousness. As I sat with him, he pointed at a picture of him with my mother before they were married. “Who’s that guy?” he said, pointing at the picture. ‘That’s you, Dad. With Mom before you were married.” He stared at the picture for a moment, trying to recall, then looked at me. “She’s gone, isn’t she?” “Yes, Dad. 6 years ago.”

Part of caring for one’s parents may also involve that most painful of decisions — directing medical personnel to let them go. My Dad’s fall had resulted in a subdural hematoma that would require surgery. His doctors were kind and helpful. I directed them to do nothing but keep him comfortable. A week later he was dead.

One thing I have to share was that, as he lay in a coma, I asked God to take him just as I had asked God to take my mother. Some people might be shocked by that. To me, though, that was a last act I could do for my parents — ask God to ease their passing. In  both cases, I felt my prayers were answered.

Reflection: Have you had any Sandwich Generation experiences? How did they affect or are they affecting your own journey?





About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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6 Responses to On the Sandwich Generation

  1. Michele says:

    This is exactly where I am right now with my dad. It is so hard letting go and so helpful to see how you walked this journey with your own parents. Thank you so much Rich for your transparency.

  2. Carlisle Navidomskis says:

    My mother’s passing was difficult. All those hospital machines. She’s not still there, and I have to remind myself not to get stuck in that time and place.

  3. Margie says:

    Being married to an only child gave me the responsibility to help my husband with his parents. His father went first (his mind was always alert.)He always worried about his wife. My mother-in-law lasted about a year and half, but had dementia. Didn’t recognized her son which was very painful for him. We also made the decision with the doctors advise that their quality of life was gone and they were to be kept as comfortable as possible. It is a very difficult decision, but one that I have talked to my children about. My prayers are with you, my friend! Margie

  4. Susan Bass says:

    My mother’s soul will slip out of her body alone. It will be an unattended death, although it could have been attended by her teenaged grandson and her kind son-in-law. She prefers to die alone but not without having sent her love this way. Her soul was infused into a tiny little body in 1926 and given to two parents who did not, in my opinion, love her. Why God allows children and animals to be given to people who don’t love them I do not know. I think Free Will was not a good idea.

  5. Am in the midst with my dad now. He too had a stroke. Gets very agitated and can be really hard to handle. He too has dementia. Vascular

    I have just made a decision after being the almost sole person involved in his life in three years to stop being responsible for him

    I have two siblings who have not been involved basically for three years. I cannot do it anymore. My health will not allow it.

    I feel i have a right to a life. He seems happier with his new family at the care home now. Whenever he sees me he just goes on about what he has lost

    Well i lost a lot too and he had his life. My mum was different. I miss her but glad she died before she became bed bound wit Alzeimers

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