Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sandwich Generation by Sharon O'Donnell

I've heard of The Sandwich Generation for years -- the group of people who are taking care of their parents in some way and also still caring for children -- kind of squeezed in between responsibilities, so to speak, like in between two pieces of bread. And here I am now as an official part of that generation. My parents are both 87 years old, and I'm blessed that they are still in relatively good health. But relatively good health at that age still means there are problems. Last summer, my father went through a bout with pneumonia that we didn't know whether or not he would be able to beat. For about three months, he was either at the doctor's office, the hospital, or resting at home, which for a normally active man who still ran his own business -was a huge change. That pneumonia, we discovered, was very possibly caused by an antibiotic called Macrabid that he'd taken a few days before he got sick; one of the side effects, particularly in elderly people, is pneumonia and other respiratory problems. He is better now, but it was touch and go for a while. He still drives and is actually a good driver. But a lot of times one of my siblings or I will take him to his doctor's appts. so that we can ask the questions that need to be asked, which my father usually won't do.

My mother suffers from macular degeneration, which means her eyesight is not good. She is still active and quite a cook, but she hasn't driven for years and has had back and leg problems. I'm lucky that I have a brother and two sisters who are all local too, so one of us can usually help our parents when needed. One of my sisters and my brother work with my dad in his business, so they are nearby the house a lot. My 89 year old uncle, a WWII vet who served in Italy, also lives with them ever since he got so he could not live by himself. He's never been 'right' since he came back home from Italy in 1945 - a long story --but suffice it to say that my parents have taken care of him since the mid-'70s or so, even though he lived in a house across the yard. My mother has always done his laundry, made his meals, etc. Now that is a bit tough for her.

And then I have an 11-year-old with allergies and a 17-year-old with anxiety (and a college junior that I don't have to worry about a lot right now other than the fact he lives in a frat house!). Kids and parents. Parents and kids. I love them all so much, but it does get overwhelming at times when they are all going through some challenge of the moment. I took my 11-year-old son and my mother to the beach last year because I felt guilty about not spending enough time with either of them. It was difficult to find things all three of us could do together. My son wanted to play mini golf, while there was no way my mother could go on those courses with all the climbing up into tree houses, etc. it required.

Being a part of The Sandwich Generation can be challenging; but, of course, I'm so blessed to have my parents for so long and in such good overall health. I'm blessed that my children have gotten to know their grandparents for this long, too. Being in the Sandwich Generation definitely has its rewards.



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