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!”
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.
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.
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