Joining the Sandwich Generation


eldercareAre you a Panini Too?

As I drove away from my mother's independent living facility the other day, I started to cry. I felt overwhelmed, scared and deflated. My father died last fall, and the passing months have been the cruelest I have ever seen for my mom. During the three years she stood by his bedside, one would assume she felt deflated. But it never showed. She always appeared as stoic as her Irish genes melded her. Despite her relatively good health for an 82-year-old, now I am worried about her fragile emotional well-being. Her verve and characteristic zest for life seem to be zapped, at least for the moment anyway.

I'd driven the roundtrip two hours from my suburban Chicago home to what my kids call "the old folk's home," as I do at least three times a week, bearing books, DVD's, magazines and BBQ chicken or some concoction in Tupperware. I also always bring a plate of cookies for her to share with the other "ladies," the other mostly widows who make up the roster of this senior's community. I have come to realize that it was my father who with walker in hand, forged the path to socialization and mealtimes at the home's cafeteria.  My mom, a little shy these days, prefers to eat alone in the quite of her room. I've improvised a version of meals-on-wheels, cooking dinner around 6 a.m. so that it's ready for my kids that night, and delivered to my mom that afternoon.

Thank God for the other ladies I thought as I pulled out of the parking lot. So far, they coaxed my mom from her isolation to Bingo night .Hopping on the expressway; I quickly check my phone messages, cover an urgent work commitment and make it in time for my 16-year-old daughter's tennis match. Phew!

Sandwich or flattened Panini?

They call me, like most of you, "The Sandwich Generation," because we are juggling a multitude of opportunities and obligations. But, I say we're more like flattened Panini's flattened between parenting children and caregiving for aging parents.

My daily to-do list is a whirl of tornado-like activity that can't possibly be boxed into Outlook. My nocturnal trio of teens and a young adult go to bed when I am waking up. For the last three years, my cell was on speed dial to the ER at the hospital where my dad spent most of his time tethered to machines and IV's. But, I am grateful for this role, despite the squishing.

Supporting and inspiring each other

I hope in this blog to explore along with you and to create innovative solutions to the high-wire lives we live as caregivers of elderly parents.

I also hope you will continue to share your stories with me so that all of us - no matter how flattened our lives seem, will know we are not alone. Please post a comment and don't forget to sign up for our RSS Feed.

--Mary Beth Sammons