My friends and I often contemplate how we got to this point in life so fast. It wasn't that long ago that we talked about babies, toddlers, and teenagers. Now, we find ourselves in that sandwich generation place. Our kids are older, and so are our parents. Caught in the middle of work, young adult children's life events, and aging parents.
The aging-brain is complex, and my friends scramble to keep ahead of the curve-ball. There are good days, and then the bad days for no apparent reason. A solution that works one day doesn't work the next. They work hard to anticipate and prevent the next crisis.
I am often baffled to find the right words to help my friends. It is not easy to explain-away their parent's irrational behaviors and illogical thoughts. The guilt that my friends experience as they try and make things OK for their parents is so hard to see. My heart aches for them because they feel like they should be doing more despite the fact that they are extraordinary caregivers.
Always Parent and Child
I know from my own experience that parents don't wish this for their children. Parents who once provided the caregiving are now the care-receiver, however, the roles are not reversed. My friends know that they will always be their parent's child, and their parent isn't a child.
Anger can also be a factor in this turbulent time. My friend shared today that her mother yelled at her for not understanding what she is going through. That doesn't feel good, for sure.
The remarkable thing is the resilience that my friends demonstrate. They are grateful to still have a parent in their life. Frustration and exacerbation are factors, but bitterness and anger are not.
So what can we do for the friends among us who are in this role of elder-caregiver? The Alzheimer's Association has a long list of suggestions, and here are mine.
- Listen. Let them tell you their stories- sometimes venting is just what they need
- Avoid issuing unsolicited advice
- Support with words of affirmation that they are doing a good job
- Be a friend, not an expert (my lesson)
- A brownie delivery every once in a while doesn't hurt!
Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare, Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving to private and professional caregivers. She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.