By guest blogger: Ann Napoletan
As I watch my mom’s slow decline further and further into depths of Alzheimer’s disease, I find that I am still trying to wrap my head around so many things. Near the top of that list is the realization that I’ve now assumed the parenting role, while she has gradually slipped back into childhood.
When I was asked to write a piece about “The Sandwich Generation,” I had to stop and think for a minute. Where do I fit into that equation?
There are literally millions of people “sandwiched” between the responsibilities of raising children and caring for aging parents. I truly feel for those who are balancing the care of children still at home, while also acting as caregivers to elderly parents. I’ve been fortunate, in that when my mother began to show early signs of Alzheimer’s back in 2004, my daughter (J) was already freshman in college. Even so, we had our challenges.
As a young adult, J was fiercely independent and very passionate about things that were near and dear to her heart. And, the relationship she had with her gram was like no other. They were two peas in a pod; J was the center of my mom’s universe, and Mom was such a strong, positive presence in J’s life.
Neither J nor I wanted to face reality as the disease progressed, but eventually, the time came when I began to talk about next steps. The fact was Mom was reaching a point where living independently would not be feasible much longer. And so the struggle began…
Making Heartwrenching Decisions as a Caregiver
While I respected and valued my daughter’s opinion beyond measure, the truth was, I would have to make some tough decisions even when that meant being the “bad guy.” I didn’t want to take away Mom’s car, and I certainly didn’t want her to have to give up her beloved home. Truthfully, all I really wanted to do was bury my own head in the sand until all of this was “fixed!” Oh those were painful times, and the tension between my daughter and I, all stemming from the love we both had for my mom, just compounded the issues. J was understandably protective of her gram, but at the same time, we could no longer deny what was happening.
Difficult, yet essential, decisions were made, life progressed, and we survived. J graduated from college, started a successful business, and today our relationship couldn’t be stronger. Make no mistakes; it was a bumpy road. The love a child has for a grandparent is extraordinary no matter the child’s age. Watching the decline of someone who can do no wrong in your eyes – truly, your hero for as long as you can remember – has to be excruciating. But, for better or worse, this is the circle of life that cannot be denied.
The Metaphorical “Sandwich” of the Sandwich Generation
I guess the moral of the story is that regardless of the age of your children, you will likely find yourself in the middle of that metaphorical “sandwich” at some point. Whether they are three or 23, your kids will always need your love and support, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always agree. The most any of us can do is keep the lines of communication open, respect one another, and make the decisions we think are best. In the end, time marches on regardless.
About the Author:
Slightly neurotic 40-something living life one day at a time… and stumbling through the Alzheimer’s journey with the woman who was my rock for four decades.