by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP
Like you, I’m a part of the ‘sandwich’ generation. I play the role of ‘filling in the middle’ and sometimes feel like I’m getting squished between the slices of bread. Other times I think I must be the peanut butter – and I’m sticking to both slices while they are being separated from one another – you know what I mean – pulled in at least two different directions.
The part I find most challenging is getting ‘blind-sided’ by either generation. When the kids were little I knew everything that was going on in their lives. I was in touch with their teachers, knew who their friends were, and often knew the parents of their friends. There were no surprises.
When the kids became ‘independent’ and moved out I lost that intimate contact. I no longer knew when things were unsettled. They told me only what they wanted to and that is as it should be. That’s a part of what growing up is about. But sometimes I get blind-sided now by an adult child who has tried to resolve an issue and needs support. I’m thankful they feel they can come to me for advice, support, and sometimes a ‘what were you thinking?’
The bigger blind-sides now come from my parents. They, of course, have been independent for longer than I’ve been alive, and are now at the stage where everything starts to go backwards. They are reluctant to ask for help from their youngest child, and since I am the only child who lives within 12 hours of them, this is a skill we need to practice. We’ve started having some difficult conversations. You might know the ones. Who is your executor? Where are your important papers? Is it time to sell your home and move into a retirement apartment? Would you consider moving in with us or at least closer to us? We’re moving slowly with these conversations. I strive to introduce concepts but to not push or dwell on them. Mom and Dad eventually come around, bring them up again after they’ve had a chance to ruminate on them, and progress is being made slowly and surely.
I’m open to suggestions from you – guidance, and ideas as to how to be the best sandwich filling, for my parents especially. I know many of you have already been through this or are at least ahead of me in the process. What is the best thing you have done to help your parents transition in their senior years?