If at times in the last few weeks it has felt as if the force behind JENerally Informed, me Jen, has been less than present it is because I was. Several weeks ago my immediate family and I made the difficult decision to place my elderly mother into an assisted living facility. I have shared before how I am a member of the sandwich generation. This is someone who is sandwiched in between two generations. They are busily raising their own children while at the same time caring for elderly parents.
It’s a hard role and in my case I am the mother to 4 children ranging in age from toddlers to teens. You might think the teen would need me less than the toddler, but that isn’t the case and so my days and nights are a perpetual juggling session full of who needs me most. That is pretty standard as a parent, but add in the care of an elderly parent and it all starts to add up faster than you can sometimes juggle.
The decision to place my mother into an assisted living facility was not one that was done recklessly or thoughtlessly. It was born from the necessity that the current care in her home we had been trying so hard to maintain for her just wasn’t working.
Over the past several years as I have researched and looked for other “sandwichers” like me, I have had a hard time finding them. I don’t think I am alone. I just think that as young parents who are trying to build careers and care for our families there is little time to share with a wider audience our experience, but we need to. Because I think that there are quite of a few of us out there right now and I know that there will be more as the parenting age averages around 40 years old.
So to all of my fellow young “sandwichers” out there I first want you to know that you are not alone on this difficult journey. I may not have walked your same path, but I bet we can share similar feelings of worry, sadness and even feeling useless and unable to deal with it all sometimes. I have had worrisome nights spent in ER rooms, middle of the night wake up calls from paramedics and return visits home in between all of this to nurse and care for a newborn baby.
It can be very difficult, but I also want to share a few tips that I wish someone had shared with me at the beginning of my journey.
This is so very important. Although we may wish to do and be everything for everyone, we can’t. And trying to do so will leave you feeling helpless and exhausted. Trust me on this one. Be aware of your schedule when scheduling doctors appointments for your parent and be realistic of your time and capabilities and schedule your time doing those things that are most important.
There are two ways you can do this. First share your experience with others. You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of what is going on, but do let others know a little about what is going on in your life. This well help them to see that your plate is full and in general not try to add more to it. I found people a lot more supportive when I started sharing what was going on rather than just trying to “grin and bear it” This can be a great help to you as you try to care for all of the family members in your charge.
The second way to enlist help is to ask. I have asked for help with smaller and menial tasks I was having a difficult time accomplishing. Perhaps a neighbor could help to drive your parent to an appointment for a routine test or Dr.’s appointment that you do not need to attend. Or you could ask a church group to help with some small weeding or household chores. I always try to be mindful of other people’s resources, but I know that sometimes people are just waiting for you to ask them to help because they are afraid to, and they don’t want to interject themselves into your routine.
Take Time For You
This is a big one. At the end of last week after my mother had been moved, I felt terrible. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically. I needed time to decompress and because I knew my mother was somewhere safe I finally could. It doesn’t matter what you do during your me time, just make it happen. Because your children and your elderly parents need a healthy and well centered you, and truthfully it needs to happen whether they like it or not.
I think this conversation is so important and there is much more sharing that needs to take place for those of us who are living and breathing this experience every day, but if you have found your way here to this post somehow, hugs. Know that you are not alone and if you need someone to talk to I am here.
To all of my other JENerally Informed readers thank you for the love and compassion you have shown me in the past several weeks. Many of you have reached out to me in various ways to show you care and it really mattered to me that you did. I know this may not be something you are currently going through, but I would appreciate it if you could share this post. You just don’t know who it might help.
Stay Happy! Stay Informed!
Go ahead and share this post, you know you want to!