As a mom with an aging parent and a kid under 18, I have first-hand experience with the family sandwich.
I’m not alone. The “sandwich generation” continues to grow as people live longer (read: an aging parent like mine) and wait longer to have kids (guilty as charged).
And like many others, my proverbial plate also includes a spouse, a full-time job, and friends. Not to mention personal needs and wants, like exercising, taking care of finances, and on occasion, the fun stuff like travel.
Much like parenting, caregiving for a parent is an ongoing evolution. Over time, I realized Mom needed a little more help. Her apartment wasn’t as clean as it used to be, and it made her life easier if I went to the store for her. Her Parkinson’s tremor made it tough for her to sign checks, so I paid her bills for her too.
At one point, we decided it would be best if she moved from her apartment 30 minutes away to a closer apartment in an independent living community. The community offered transportation for doctor’s appointments, shopping, and church, so she no longer needed to drive. It also had a restaurant, hair salon, and workout facility on site, and someone came to clean once a week. Even I wanted to move in.
Then came the day when Mom needed emergency surgery. She simply stood up and her ankle broke. The surgery went great, but rehab didn’t. She was overmedicated and had a series of urinary tract infections that brought on behavior resembling dementia. When things were at their worst, I was visiting her every day after work.
I learned to advocate on her behalf and keep in close contact with the staff. After a few months, her independent living community agreed to make special provisions to take her into the assisted living portion of their building.
Fortunately, she had created a Power of Attorney that allowed me to do these things. The other thing that saved us? She had signed up for long-term care years before this happened. Without it, we would have blown through all of Mom’s retirement savings by now (assisted living isn’t cheap!). The daily rate paid by long-term care still helps to supplement Mom’s teacher’s pension and Social Security.
It’s not easy being a caregiver. Things aren’t always in balance. Sometimes priorities need to shift day by day, or even hour by hour. But once I had my own child, I realized just how much love, time, and money my parents had invested in me, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help repay the favor.
If you’re a caregiver, tell us about your personal trials and your triumphs. What are your pain points, and what empowers you to move past them?
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