Commentary: Sandwich Generation

Filed under: Opinion |

They say that age is merely a state of mind and that a person can control how old they feel. That may be true, but only so far as an aging person’s health will allow.

I put my mother in a nursing home this week. Fortunately it is only temporary, but my eyes have been opened wide to the realities of caring for an aging parent. My 70-year-old mom has had two knee surgeries in the past 10 days and faces six weeks of intravenous antibiotic before undergoing knee replacement surgery and eight weeks of rehabilitation.

While the staph infection she contracted after her initial knee surgery concerns me, I have to say the level of care and attention she received at Integris was amazing. From the surgeon to other doctors, nurses and aides, the professionalism and dedication to duty throughout this ordeal has been remarkable.

Although I knew she was in very good hands, my responsibility – and that of my family – has been great.

A person with chronic health problems goes through a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil. I have seen many of the classic stages of grief in my mother. She has at times been angry, depressed and frightened. Not to mention bored. I know she is grieving her loss of independence and is certainly missing her once-active life.

I learned that nothing cheers her up like a visit from her granddaughter. Luckily Madison is always willing to oblige, which is pretty remarkable for a teenager with a very busy schedule.

In addition to the emotional roller coaster, there is the necessity physical care. Leaving my mom in a nursing home – where she is the youngest resident by a long shot – was very difficult and left me with tremendous guilt. However, leaving her alone all day in her present condition was just not a safe option.

Many of my generation must care for aging parents. We are truly the “Sandwich Generation” since many of us are also still raising our children. Add to that a high-pressure career and civic commitments and we have a new definition of stress.

Statistics tell us that family members make up the vast majority of elder care givers. The vast majority of caregivers are women, and 70 percent work outside the home.

As employers, we deal with potential loss of productivity and absenteeism from this group of sandwich generation caregivers. As humans, we react, hopefully, to this ever-growing issue with understanding and patience.

Mary Mélon is publisher of The Journal Record in Oklahoma City.