And there was that one time when your dad said their voicemail wasn’t working.
So you drove out there to discover that it works fine, he actually has 104 messages dating back to when he moved into the house back in March, and he just never asked how to check them, and now you have to spend the morning on the phone with Comcast to try to mass delete them, because there is something else wrong and their visual voicemail isn’t working, and you don’t have 8 hours to listen to 104 voicemails.
That was awesome.
About that sandwich
At our former church, there used to be a support group for ‘The Sandwich Generation.’ I never really understood what the phrase meant.
There’s not such a support group at our new church. But, as time has marched on, I have come to realize that the term refers to people who care for older parents while dealing with having children of their own. And whereas I don’t provide a lot of direct care for my parents, as my mother has suffered some health problems this year, I think I am getting a glimpse into what it could mean.
My mother fell last week and broke her arm. She had successful surgery to repair this latest break and she’s doing pretty well on the day after. Her injury actually turned out to be fairly serious so the procedure was somewhat involved.
This fall came on the heels of one she had back in the spring, which resulted in a broken leg.
As she contemplated this second surgery, she was beginning to explore some ways to reverse the trend, improve her mobility and strengthen balance after she recooperates.
I think she’s considering a senior Tai Chi class as a possible remedy. That’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, as her surgery got underway, I went to sit with my dad. He had seemed tired and stressed when I saw him the day before. A lot of her care, in the wake of these accidents, has fallen to him. I was fortunate that I could get away from work for the afternoon to help him pass the time.
In such cases, it’s always nice to have someone to sit with, to chat with, to help you keep your mind off the slow-ticking clock. More importantly, I think it was important for him to get to express some of his concerns, talk about old times and make plans for the future.
My role was really just to listen.
He told me about some of his experiences in farming and how he juggled his time during his years as a college student. He talked about how proud he is of my kids and that he felt we have done a good job as parents.
As much as the experience was meaningful to me, this time was really for his benefit.
At one point, we went to the hospital cafeteria. He was needing some nourishment after a busy morning. For his lunch, he selected a yummy roast beef sandwich.
In his true generous manner, he offered me half but I declined. It was his sandwich. I had eaten lunch earlier. He smiled. He enjoyed both halves.
He was there for the sandwich; I was there for him.
Well, I’m feeling pretty bipolar the last few days. And definitely over 40. Mother’s Day was tough for me. It usually is, shifting gears between my husband’s family of origin, my family of origin, and my own family: It leaves me with supercharged and unresolved emotions, memories, guilt, disappointment, sadness, excitement, overpowering love. I went from talking too fast too long to barely being able to get out of the car for the next stop. And there was a sharp moment of such sadness I didn’t see coming when my father-in-law had to go back to the nursing home he’s just entered.
Then that night, long hours of “existential nightmares” as I call them. Endless dreams of being stuck, in an institution or my parents’ home (as an aging adult), or a marriage that’s become empty and pointless — horrible feelings but dulled, a sense of futility, hopelessness, disappointment in myself, grief. The dreams go on right up until I “wake up” — “wake up” in quotation marks because I become conscious but I’m still inside the dream for hours afterward. I think about suicide. I feel like I’m on a drug that slows me to a crawl but gives me vivid images in my mind.
The rest of Monday was thinking about Sunday and trying to lift the fog. I tried to talk to my husband about a topic I blogged on, and he seemed to be arguing with me rather than supporting me. I started to cry. I realized I wanted him to listen to me like a friend would — because I don’t have a friend. So I felt sad that I have no friends and sad that I made him feel he wasn’t sympathetic enough.
Now it’s today. One of my children came to me to tell me about some hard things she’d just gone through and I found she’d done exactly what I hope she’d do in the situation she found herself in, and telling me is exactly what I fondly hope she’ll always do, expecting and receiving no less than love and understanding. We talked a long time, and I handled the news. I didn’t freak out. I was proud of her. We both felt closer. We hugged.
But tonight, the last 3 days are weighing heavy. They’ve taken about 3 years off my life. I’m bowed down. I feel depleted. I feel a weight of worry about my child that I know I’ll never stop carrying (what parent does?), I feel afraid that I’ll exceed my limits and be unable to be and do what people in my life need of me. I feel afraid of the death that’s coming for our 3 remaining parents, all over 90. I feel afraid my heart will break. And I feel self-hatred for thinking always so much of myself, my illness, my stress, my needs and capabilities — instead of giving unselfishly and unreservedly to those I love, with no thought for myself.
So tonight, I walked my dogs and as I went I “derealized.” I “depersonalized.” My self dislocated like a shoulder. And that didn’t scare me or feel unpleasant like dissociation does sometimes does. It was a relief! It stopped “me” for a while without stopping my life, but left the door open for me to return.
“The houses may look ordinary from the street, but the interior designs of many new and existing homes are changing to meet the needs of the so-called “sandwich generation” whose parents, children or other relatives may live with them under one roof." ”—
The Tennessean: ‘Sandwich Generation’ Impacts Housing Market
See our full report on the Sandwich Generation here.
Caring for Our Greatest Generations: Children and Elderly
Philosophers, religious leaders, and anthropologists have long asserted that the true measure of the goodness of a culture is how it treats those hardest to care for — namely children and the elderly. According to a new report by the National Research Council, our society is missing the mark.
The report specifically examined the ability of U.S. healthcare workers to meet the mental health needs of an aging population. In 2010, 40.3 million Americans were 65 years or older. By 2030, that number will grow to 72.1 million. Currently, an estimated 1 in 5 of these older adults have at least one mental health or substance abuse condition. Depressive disorders and dementia-related symptoms are the most common problems. Additionally, age alters the body’s ability to metabolize medications and cognitive impairments lead to an inability for self-care. These age-related issues lead to multiple healthcare challenges, including high costs, decreased quality of life, and increased morbidity and mortality. To add insult to injury, the report claims that there is a shortage of healthcare workers who are able to care for these elderly patients.
Primary care providers are currently ill-equipped to care for the mental healthcare needs of an aging population. And, as the aging population grows and becomes more diverse, providers will fall further behind in their ability to care for the elderly. Most providers receive little training in geriatric care and virtually no training on mental health in this specific population. The authors of the IOM report cite a lack of financial incentives and mentorship opportunities within this specialty. They released the report as a wake-up call to the nation that will, hopefully, prompt an expansion and preparation of a geriatric healthcare workforce. The authors suggest augmenting Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for mental health and substance abuse counseling services and intensifying government grants and programs that encourage professional training in geriatrics.
However, all of these recommendations require money and time — two other things facing significant shortages in the American healthcare system. Inadequate training and personnel shortages are not easily overcome. Coordinated efforts by health professional and social services schools, agencies that promote training in geriatric care, and public and private care providers must espouse a new attitude toward caring for an aging population. Educational experiences that encourage a quality-of-life, rather than just a medical, approach to geriatric care has proved successful in some healthcare curriculums. Clinical knowledge and didactic education are obviously important for improving the care of elderly patients, but the attitude and affective knowledge gained through non-clinical interactions with older adults may be the best approach to expand and improve the care of our aging population. Affection and care for the elderly are truly gold mines of a culture. If we are not able to care for those who have spent their lifetimes caring for us, what kind of care can we expect in our own golden years?
Often on the edge - with an old lady
My Nana just called me because she couldnt hear her phone conversation. I couldnt hear what she needed because the volume on her TV was at 78. She gave me the ‘pa-shah!’ face when I suggested the two events were connected. When she could hear her call after i lowered the volume on her TV to 50.. she waved me on. “YOU ARE WELCOME!!” Now I dont feel badly about lowering the thermostat to 76.
I'm proud of having been a caregiver
A year ago I wrote about a terrible day I had with my mother while trying to solicit donations for my son’s school fundraiser. You can read about it here: I Left My Purse At Brats Brothers.
I remember that day distinctly and when I looked up the date I wrote it I was so surprised it was almost exactly one year ago. I’m shocked at how much things have changed.
A friend of mine is in the midst of caregiving and called me the other day to unload. I could feel the desperation and pain in his voice. I know because I have felt every last bit of it.
Last year I was consumed with sadness when I thought about my mom’s situation. It seemed so hopeless and the road ahead was so foggy and frightening. Now I have traveled to the end of the road I know where it lead and I can’t say I’m any less sad about it. But I do feel one thing, pride. I am very proud of having cared for my mother during her struggles with dementia. The greatest gift is to give back to someone who nurtured you. I feel good that even in her darkest moments I was there for my mom. Growing up I could always count on her and when the roles reversed I can’t say it was easy. But I did it. Along with my father and my brother. And I know they are proud of having given back to such an amazing woman.
Having had some time to rest and ponder what caregivers go through I have changed my perspective a bit. While it was the most challenging thing I have ever done, it was worth every second. This may seem strange to say but, “Thank you for the opportunity, Mom.”