Caregiving, Sandwich generation, Elderly parents

Caregiving: Wisdom for the Sandwich Generation

I heard her footsteps on the stairs one night — jolted out of a sound sleep and into the familiar world of worry.

Step, click, pause.

The foot, the cane, the balance check.

Exhaling in the dark, I realized . . . no.  I had been dreaming.  She’s not here anymore.  She’s walking in safety now, through hallways with sturdy rails, assisted by M.A.’s and C.N.A.’s and an alphabet soup of helpers who tend to her every need.

That transition from our home to a long term care facility was heart-wrenching. Today, the first anniversary of my mother’s passing, I’m sharing some reflections on that season of care giving at The Perennial Gen.

As difficult as it was to have Mum in our home, it was even more difficult to make the decision that she needed more advanced care. In His mercy, God gifted a peaceful and painless passage to Mum, and in the year since then, I’m thankful to find that the memory of hard days and relational tension is being swallowed up in healing and forgiveness.

For those who are walking the tightrope of parenting your children while giving care to an elderly parent, please know that your sacrifices and struggles are seen by God, and He will give wisdom and strength — even for the decisions that feel as if there is no right answer.

I’m sharing our family’s story of grace with the folks at The Perennial Gen today. Join me?


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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

58 thoughts on “Caregiving: Wisdom for the Sandwich Generation”

  1. I am beginning to think about those days. My mum is 83 now and in great health but is starting to decline in some ways. She’s nowhere near ready to need living assistance but we all know that those days are on the horizon. My sister is sick with stage 4 colon cancer and this has taken quite a bit out of my mum. I’ve been blogging for quite some time and was nice to come here and see a post directed at people closer to my age (mid 50s) I get a little bored with reading all about how to raise young children sometimes.

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    1. I couldn’t be more pleased to hear from you this morning, and I love the name of your blog. I’ve got my marigold seeds all ready and waiting for warmer weather.
      It sounds as if you are coming into a season of decisions and self-giving, but that your eyes are wide open to the challenges.
      It’s great to find community here among bloggers!

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  2. My mom has passed on, but I remember well taking care of her after she had a stroke and my children at the same time. It was exhausting! Even after she entered an assisted living facility, I still gave her a shower every night. I dearly miss her, though, and would give anything to help her shower one more time!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michele, you have so beautifully expressed the difficult emotions which come with caring, honoring, and making decisions for aging parents. Praying for you and for us all as we navigate these challenges of life, for surely, the next generation will also learn from our example. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As we lived this journey, one of our prayer and goals was to model that attitude of respect and love for mum. None of us is easy to love all the time, and when an elderly person is operating out of fear and confusion, everyone is challenged.
      Thanks, Joanne, for reading!

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  4. We (my husband and I) have been caring for my mom and two special needs teenagers.

    So far having her here has been a great blessing, as her dementia is manageable with meds. I know harder times are ahead, but for now I try to focus as much as possible on the blessings. “Do not worry about tomorrow…”

    Thanks for sharing! I’d like to put you on my blog roll over at “Life on the Road Less Traveled,” if you don’t mind. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heidi! Thanks for sharing my post and for your good thoughts here on your own care giver/sandwich generation role. As you have said, staying in the moment is key. We can’t handle tomorrow’s troubles all at once!

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  5. My family for whatever reasons lives long lives than just pass so no caregiving needed. But my husbands’ parents had to go to assisted living in their late 80’s. The facility gave excellent care but not a day passed when dad didn’t ask when they would be able to go back home. His mom passed almost three years ago and dad last spring.

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    1. These years are challenging, and that longing for home and rejection of the present situation must have been so painful for you to witness. I’m sorry for your grief, as it looks as if we are both observing anniversaries of parental loss this spring.

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  6. I can SO relate to what you are saying here. I so remember those long days of my dear mother needing me so desperately and our precious little boy needing me just as much. I look back now, though, and realize those were some of the most precious, fulfilling days of my life. I miss Mom so much it hurts, and our dear boy is so much older now and more independent of his Mama. We think we will never get through those hard places, then sometimes we look back later and miss them the most. Life is so strange and winding and each season has its purpose. We rarely see the treasures in our current season until they are far behind us.

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    1. What a poignant and precious reminder, Cheryl. There is so much good going on behind the scenes in those challenging seasons. I’m so glad you emphasized that important point!

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  7. My mom is in good shape, but my dad has many health problems and is not the man I knew growing up. Mom is still able to give him care at home, but she’s 85 and I am concerned about the near future and what that looks like so I can appreciate the sandwich generation as I still have kids at home too. lots to think about ahead but I’m so glad that you reminded me that memories are precious and any pain can blessedly be “swallowed up in healing and forgiveness” thanks

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    1. We can see it coming, can’t we? The ominous signs that a job is becoming too big for someone. Even so, it always amazes me when I see how much an elderly woman is able to do for the man she loves. Blessings to you, Karen, as you live your way into the decisions that are in your future. Thanks for reading today!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I had my mother in my home for 3 1/2 years prior to her death. She actually died in my home, which was something I had never anticipated. It was getting to the point that I was going to have to move her where she could get care that I could not provide. I felt so blessed that she was able to go as quickly as she did and that I did not have to move her out of my home. Those years that she was here with me took a lot of strength but I am so grateful for the time that we had together. I miss her so much and am grateful for the memories. Thank you so much for sharing this blog post.

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    1. Isn’t it true that there is mercy and blessing even in the hardest of times? My mum was sick for only a matter of hours before she left this earth, and that was such a gift to me as her mobility, her eyesight, and her ability to cope with life were quickly diminishing. The ability to provide a home for our mums, even for a short time, is a great gift and I’m with you in this expression of gratitude. Thanks for reading and for sharing your encouraging story.

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  9. Michele, thank you for speaking to the hard. My husband and his sister are in a difficult situation with their dad. He has never been a loving father, and now that dementia has set in, he has become unbearable. He is not a believer which makes it even more sad. The Heavenly Father has given my husband the grace to honor his dad and try to do his best with him. He will be moved to a facility in June, he still lives at home with caregivers. Thank you for your words of wisdom! Blessings~

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    1. I honor you and your husband for persevering in this hard season. It was such a hurtful thing when my mum started acting out of belligerence. We have to trust for grace to forgive the unforgivable and to love without expecting anything in return. For some reason, this is harder with a parent, but I do believe that God gives special grace for those impossible acts of love, and I see it in your situation as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sending love in your grief Michelle. Reading this made me feel so sad, yet inspired and I feel you are just such and amazing and caring woman, you are truly a blessing to all the lives you touch. I cared for my mum when she was very ill, struck down with a condition that stacked her nerves and left her for a while unable to know who we were and unable to walk or move one arm. My children were very little at the time and it was part of their fabric caring for Nana, Thankfully she was blessed with recovery and is now home with my dad and living an active full life, she just celebrated her 70th this year! Nearly loosing her was heart wrenching and I won’t to believe that she will stay healthy for a long long time. She has Parkinson’s now, but medication is keeping it at bay for now. She is an amazing woman and I could not imagine my life without her. Sending you huge hugs and blessing xx Also thank you for linking up with us for #ablogginggoodtime

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    1. Thank you, Mackenzie, for sharing your care giving story. You experienced it at a much younger age than most! So glad to hear that your mum recovered and is doing well, even with Parkinson’s. She must be an amazing woman, and I’m sure she treasures you and your strong support!

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  11. So as I read this, I think not of the time when my mom will come live with us, but when I will have to decide to keep Charlie at home or find somewhere better suited for him. I don’t ever want to do it. In fact, I can’t even finish this thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Staggering.
      As someone whose kids are waltzing (and have waltzed) out the door at an alarming rate and under very different circumstances, I don’t blame you for not thinking about it right now. Thanks be to God, some thoughts are just not meant for today.

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  12. My mom died in ’08 from a stroke. Her dementia had worsened; she did not want to come live with me in another state; I had looked into an assisted living place that included a closed dementia unit, She was quite hard of hearing and very opinionated so when I had something to say to her, I was “shouting” just to make myself heard, never understood. I am so thankful that God had a better plan. At 93, she was out in her front yard trimming the forsythia bush and she dropped from the stroke. Although she never regained consciousness, she lingered till we could all be there to say our goodbyes. She got her wish; she got to stay in her home with help. My children are now dealing with my ex’s dementia (he’s 9 years older than me), diabetes, COPD, deafness, paranoia, and depression. I offer advice as I worked with geriatric psych patients for most of my 40 year career as an occupational therapist. and am often disregarded. His trips from retirement home to hospital to rehab are increasing in frequency and I ache for them. The book, The 36 Hour Day, which I consider a Bible for caregivers of dementia victims, is a book I buy every time I find one secondhand, and pass on. My SO’s mother is failing, too; I’ve found 2 copies for the family so far. One day at a time really should be 1 minute at a time some days!

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  13. My Aunt was going through her 3rd cancer battle when we had to transition my grandmother into long term care. The one piece of advice I got back then that has stuck with me was someone comparing it to the advice you get on the airline about putting your own oxygen mask on first before putting it on a child or dependent because if you are the care giver you have to be able to take care of the others in an emergency. That stuck with me through the 3 years of what had been predicted to be a 3 month life expectancy in the nursing home. We can’t care for others if we aren’t physically caring for ourselves.

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    1. That’s so amazingly true, and we need to bear it in mind as we open our homes and our hearts to those we love. We can’t serve them well if we’re barely breathing ourselves!

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  14. Thank you for sharing this moving and timely post. My mom is 88 and although her physical health is fine, her memory is slipping. She recently said to me “Will you remind me who you are when I forget.” So yes, your post is very, very timely.

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      1. Yes, they definitely were. I was not able to repeat them again, orally or in writing, until this post. It has been great to hear someone else’s heartfelt story on this topic. Thank you for sharing it.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Michele! It is lovely to have you back joining us at Midlife Share the Love Party. We had this issue with my MIL. My husband and I had moved into a flat downstairs from my parents-in-law about 10 years ago to keep an eye on them. 2 years ago at 90 my MIL lost her husband of 70 years, got shingles and had a fall. She had to move to aged care and my husband felt so guilty. For us, it was the best thing she ever did. Fortunately, for her she recovered and is now so involved in all the activities and outings she is reinvigorated. It is hard to face the fact that you can’t care for your parents any longer but sometimes it is the best decision. Sharing on social media and see you at the next #MLSTL link party.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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  16. Michele, yes, we Boomers are indeed the sandwich generation, taking care of aging parents and teens. My own mother ended up in a nursing home at an early age, but my husband’s mother first lived with her daughter then moved out of state to live with another son. She finally had to go into as assisted living. This is HARD work and I am constantly amazed at anyone who can take care of both sides and themselves. A timely and relevant article and a testament to our times that won’t end anytime soon!

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    1. Yes, I think this is going to be an even greater issue going forward as health care becomes more expensive and the generations ahead of us keep living longer lives. Mobility is such a fragile thing as parents advance into their 80’s. Blessings to you as you continue on this road, and may you find wisdom and strength for the many decisions that are ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Goodness, Heather, your plate is full. Trusting that you will find words here to help you along in your journey of caring, and that you are well-connected to a support system and to THE Source of Refuge and Strength.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. We’re just entering the stage of dependent parents Michele – now both of our fathers have passed away, we’re up to the challenge of making sure our mothers are cared for and safe. I have no desire to have either my mother or MIL live with us – so you have my absolute admiration for caring for as long as you did and for making the decision to care for yourself as well. Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au

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    1. Thanks, Leanne, for sharing, and for your transparent thoughts here. I would be the first to say that ensuring our parents’ safety does not require taking them into our homes.
      Blessings to you!

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  18. A very thoughtful and thought-provoking post Michele which I have found via the #MLSTL link up. We are baby boomers in our late 60s and our kids have kids..and two of the grandkids are adults now.. My Dad at 94 is living in an independent care place 2 hours from me as we moved away from our state’s capital city. He is very happy there and my younger brother and SIL are up the road. We have both agreed and Dad is the same, that he cannot come to our houses for care if he loses the independence. I must add though that he has had a stint in hospital because of a balance issues and mobility is compromised. My brother took Dad to his GP and a Care Plan is underway where he can get people into his place for help. I keep in touch and visit at times but have my own cancer story and a new surgery coming up. I DO put myself first because cancer has taught me this!
    Denyse

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    1. It’s so wise that you have already had “the conversation” and that your dad is on board with it.
      Your own health issues certainly do have to weigh heavily in this, and I appreciate your adding your voice to this conversation!

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  19. My mother in law and her mother (91) live with us, along with our 5 kids. Somedays it is frustrating and exhausting, however, most days they do so much to help me raise my kids. That being said, my children are growing up in an environment where they are learning grace. Learning to love their elders and respect them too. I know one day we will be faced with the same decision you had. I pray for peace of mind when that day comes. #globalblogging

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  20. I’m part of the sandwich generation too and have recently experienced the trauma of employing professional care givers to my terminally father-in- law. His decline was swift and we preferred to give palliative care at home but not without professional staff coming in. There was a personal struggle between admitting failure to provide the care ourselves and the alternative…. Finally, he passed away last month in what I hope was peace……

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    1. So good that you realized your limitations and did what you could for your FIL. Now, my hope for you is that you will find peace through accepting grace and dwelling in gratitude for the opportunity to have given him a home in his final days. That is a huge gift to him, and I honor you and your family for it!

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    1. Thank you for saying that, Lori. For the entire time Mum was living in the care facility, I think I pinned the “Bad Daughter Award” on my chest every single day. It wasn’t until after she passed away that I began to realize what I had been carrying.

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