Make mine a triple-decker
As far as the sandwich generation, I'm dealing with a "triple decker".
I wish I could take credit for creating this term but someone already beat me to it - for reasons a little different than mine.
Kristen Mauk in Senior Care Central in Colorado discusses the challenges that middle aged people face in caring for aging parents, children and grandchildren.
Many of us have heard about the "sandwich generation". It was originally coined in 1981 by Dorothy Miller, a social worker who remarked on "women in their 30s to 40s who were sandwiched between young children and aging parents as their primary caregiver" (source: Huffington Post).
Back when I was in my 40s, none of my peers were caring for aging parents. We were still in the throws of running after our kids, managing careers and home life, while most of our parents were travelling and sometimes still working.
A few of us already had kids in middle high school while most of us were still hosting playdates with middle schoolers.
Now that I'm in my 50s, it's more common to see friends worrying about their aging parents and managing their teen and young adult children.
My daughter is continuing her university studies in another city, my son is in his last year of high school applying to post-secondary studies, both my parents are divorced and managing critical health issues in separate cities, while my husband is in treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.
I don't know anyone else in my personal circle who is facing this same challenge. It's often difficult to be the only one in your age group whose spouse is very ill. All of our other challenges are relatively the same, but this major one.
I'm finding ways to manage it though.
Open communication is a must.
Friends don't always know what to say or do around me. Letting them know how I am feeling that day cues the conversation, making it easier and less awkward for everyone. I've learned to be an open book and it's helped a lot.
I discovered an excellent paper written by Stanford Medical on spouses with cancer. It advises caregivers on ways to get help, talk about their feelings and ways to reach out.
As for my parents, I'm managing my dad from a distance, along with my brother's help. We've found agencies nearby who are great resources.
And my mom, who is a fiercely independent woman but riddled with different health conditions from hearing loss to heart disease and Parkinson's, continues to live her life but with new boundaries. She's learned the benefits of slowing down and saying "no". Something I've started doing too.
The kids still need me for things like cooking and some drives here and there but I'm also learning to delegate more to them. Building their resilience to life while learning to "adult" is a life skill they need to own.
By having these systems in place, I should be able to take steady nibbles out of this massive sandwich instead of trying to finish it in a few big bites.
Janet Fanaki lives in Toronto and is the creator of RESILIENT PEOPLE, a website that profiles EXTRAordinary people who inspire others with their resilience. The site came out of Janet's own story. In 2016, her husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Her message is that even in the face of tragedy, the human spirit can thrive. www.resilientpeople.ca
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