Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sandwiched--Carolyn R. Wilker

“If God sends us on stony paths, he provides strong shoes.” --Corrie Ten Boom

We’re at that stage in our family with aging parents on one side—we’re all aging every day—and younger family with grandchildren on the other side. We’ve known, in retrospect, that this could happen one day and now we’re there, but we don’t always know what to do with it.
With two parents needing our support, our attention and energies are spread to their maximum, and that comes apart from a career as a freelance editor and writer, and a husband at home with some special needs of his own.
Carol Abaya, an expert in elder care, writes that there is no rehearsal for parent care, rather parenting one’s parents. “Becoming a parent to an aging parent presents extraordinary challenges.” Apparently it was Abaya who coined the term “sandwich generation” but also “club sandwich generation.”

Layers of the Sandwich for Care Givers
In due respect to Abaya, I prefer to call it the “Dagwood sandwich” because of the many layers, even more than a club sandwich, also in respect to the cartoonist of Dagwood and Blondie who invented that sandwich name.
The thing about the layers is that there are so many of them. There are the usual tasks to keep one’s home livable, the tasks involved with a business,  including keeping it going in spite of all else. Adult children ask advice and sometimes for physical help, and there are grandchildren to spend time with—which I want to do as I am able. Apart from care for my parents, whom I also love, there are other positions in my life that may be somewhat displaced during such a time of transition.

Spirituality in Elder Care
It can be a challenging time in which we—the grown-up kids in the middle of things— learn about the support needed. Depending on the circumstances, it’s physical support that’s required, but other times it’s just listening. Consider also the spiritual matters. We care about the whole, not just the physical, and yet the spiritual may be hard for some elders to put into words. And hard to hear.
In a recent lecture on senior care and spirituality from the Waterloo Region Gerontology Interest Group Annual Workshop on May 8, 2014, speaker Cathy Joy said, “The conversation might even start by asking …what do I need to know about you as a person to ensure that I give you the best possible care/support?” After you ask, then just wait!”[1]
The support given by family will be different than that provided by professional caregivers outside the family, which is not to say that the family does not have professional resources. Ours does, but we’re pretty close to the situation. We still need to listen for cues of what our parents need as well as hearing their concerns. And I remember that I need to update their pastor as well. Being unable to get out on their own, it’s hard to stay connected to their church family.

Supportive Organizations
It’s a fact of life and also an emotional one for the elders to see small things slipping away, one after another, until the changes become bigger and parents require more support—perhaps even more than adult children can provide. This is where I’m grateful for those organizations called Community Access Care and the trained professionals within them who have given their best. As well, I am thankful for sisters to share the care.
We pray for strength and energy to handle the demands and hope for the understanding of others when we need to step back from time to time, and we accept the prayers of others to help us to keep all the parts in balance.

[1] Warm Embrace Elder Care newsletter, June 2014, Spirituality & Aging, p. 2, 3.


Peter Black said...

Thank you for this timely focus, Carolyn. My wife and I immigrated to Canada before our parents reached the point of requiring assistance. And so, their later senior care fell to others. Our parents are all gone now, and we are in our senior years.
Hmm, causes us to consider the unknown squeeze that may fall to one or other of our children, if we're spared to see days of frailty of our own.
Grace and peace, with health and strength to you in your multi-sandwiched situation. ~~+~~

Glynis said...

Oh my, Caroline. Did you ever hit a nerve. This is just my situation. Some days I find myself being pulled in a hundred different directions. Thanks for bring this very real situation to the light and for initiating conversation about it. Bless you for being a good daughter. I know that is one thing you will never regret.

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thank you, Peter. We can use those prayers and in writing, remembered that I still had to contact their minister, which I did. Some days they need more than we can give. Blessed to have four sisters to share the care.

Thank you, Glynis. Like you, caring for your father, it does pull in different directions. Somedays it's hard to know just which way to go. Canning season too as well as work.

Bobbi said...

A very timely post, indeed. I too have lived the Dagwood Sandwich - divorced parents, each needing care in separate locations, and a disabled adult daughter. It's the focus of the book I have coming out soon, The Reluctant Caregiver.

The lesson our Lord taught me over and over again was that He really was helping. When I tried to do it all myself, I nearly collapsed. When, as He taught me, I simply 'showed up', He led the charge and managed the details in ways I never could.

We're not alone in this caregiving role. The challenge is to figure out how to surrender.

Many blessings on your journey, Carolyn. May our Lord lead your way.


Popular Posts