"IT'S GETTING MORE DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO MANAGE AND I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO."
If you are reading this page, you've likely had thoughts similar to the one above. The 'sandwich generation' is large in number – those of us who are caring both for our own children as well as aging parents. But whether you have children or not, the profound flip-flop of having to care for those who raised you is a staggering one.
It is estimated by the Pew Research Center that one in eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 are simultaneously raising children and assisting one or both parents. Seven to ten million adults also assist their mothers and fathers from interstate distances. It can feel very isolating to be in this situation, but the numbers attest to the fact that you are absolutely not alone.
Challenges of aging parents vary wildly. With high-functioning parents, you may be facing the difficulties of a mom or dad who retired too soon, and is now much more present in your life than you planned. With lower-functioning parents you may be faced with elders that are highly dependent on you for everything, or vehemently independent ones in denial about their reduced abilities. Aging parents can be a beautiful complement to our lives, providing care and companionship to us and our children. But as years take their toll, certain health realities will begin to emerge as decline is inevitable for all of us.
Thinking about our parents' situations as early on as possible is an excellent and proactive way to prepare for whatever may – or may not – lie ahead. The quality of their 'golden years' and our own lives can be greatly enhanced by planning and preparing for a secure and rewarding future.
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
First, take a look at the situation as it stands.
- How are your parents functioning?
- Is their lifestyle working for them...and for you?
- Have you noticed changes in their abilities to care for themselves, in their memory, or in their overall health?
- Do you have a sense of their financial situation?
- Do you know whether they have given thought to end of life issues and health care decisions?
- Are you the sole source of connection with your parents, or do you share that with your partner, your siblings or other relatives?
- Are you feeling concerned? If so, about what?
- Would you like to talk to your parents about some of these issues, but find that it is difficult to broach the topic?
Some of these questions may speak directly to your situation. Or none of them may – each family is unique. But spending some time reflecting about potential needs of your parents, and your own needs or issues in relation, is a very valuable exercise. The earlier you begin, the greater the potential for having more options and resources at the ready.
HARNESS YOUR RESOURCES – START FEELING MORE 'IN CONTROL' TODAY
When independent adults are still lucid and oriented, they are free to live as they choose. As much as we may want to change or take over a situation that seems like it could be better managed, our parents are responsible for themselves...until they can't be. This time in which a 'pre-decline' period may unfold can be terribly painful, frustrating, and resentment-inducing. Unless your parent is compromised in their thinking, health, safety, or emotional wellbeing, your role for now may be simply to do your own homework and try to manage your own stress as best as you can.
Begin by exploring the resources on this website for aging issues, caregiver support, and community based elder services. Use your local EAP Specialist to learn how to cope with stress or worries about your responsibilities to your parents as well as your own family. Call EAP anytime, night or day at 866-660-9533.
If ever you have concerns that your aging parent – or any elder – is being neglected, exploited or abused, report it immediately to Adult Protective Services at 1-800-564-1612.