Sandwich Generation: I Am My Parents’ Parent: Handling the Guilt
Are you or someone you know part of the “Sandwich Generation”? I sure was. I also had extreme emotions stemming from my new role as the decision maker over my parents’ affairs. I was very uncomfortable with being my parents’ parent. I felt guilt, sadness, confusion and dismay. I wondered how long this state of confusion was going to last. I often pondered how I was going to juggle marriage, life, caregiving and my other commitments. I quickly realized that there were so many things that were out of my control that I had to find a healthy place I could go to escape all of my new complications in life. That special place was exercise. In times of stress, I learned that exercising would free my mind and reduce my stress so I could go the next round. Exercise also allowed me to recharge so I could continue dealing with my daily stress of caregiving. I also realized that I could not balance everything. I quickly acclimated to a constant state of reaction, which was totally contrary to my customary state of planning. I encourage any and all caregivers to find their special place that allows them to recharge. It is very difficult to recharge as a caregiver, but it will benefit you in the long run. I have also come to learn that there are a lot of resources available to help a caregiver recharge. Some of these resources are respite, adult day care, pre-death grief counseling, children support groups, social support groups, grief literature, community resource referrals, pastoral care services and many more.
I felt a lot of guilt because I wanted the whole situation to end so I could begin a normal life. This constant roller coaster lasted nearly 8 years. I have since learn that what I wanted was very common and not something to be ashamed of. In looking back, I felt very fortunate that my wife and I did not have children at the time. I felt that I would have been placed in a situation to choose between my parents and my children. I know my parents’ would have advocated for me choosing my children first.
My outlook during the 8 year journey was that my parents set me up for success and I had no choice but to give them the best possible life for their remaining days. My wife and I did this with great satisfaction, pride, sacrifice and financial commitment. I would not have changed a thing and would have cared for my parents a thousand times over. I also knew that I was young enough and would have time to recover emotionally and financially. I poured all that I had into my parents and never looked back. I also made decisions based on my current state and had no regrets after the fact.
I have since found a great article written by Helen Hunter, ACSW, LSW called Multiple Roles: Handling the Guilt. https://caregiver.com/articles/handling-the-guilt/ The article discusses the challenges and emotions unique to caregivers in the sandwich generation. The article also gives caregivers permission to be human and to ask for help as it pertains to caregiving for parents.
There is also a definitive financial impact for caregivers and their families. Please feel free to schedule a “Put the pieces of your life together” session with Chris today.