The burden of the sandwich generation
Mum hurt her foot. That’s the only detail you can lure out of her over the phone, which right now makes the distance between the two of you feel that much farther. She’s limping and doesn’t want to go to a doctor. Instead, she wants you to look at it, ignoring the fact that you have a full-time job, two kids and, oh yeah, you live three hours away. Sound familiar? Managing the seniors in your life, whether it’s helping them through their health problems or clearing up insurance issues, is the burden of the sandwich generation.
So how can you care for ageing parents when you’re far from home and juggling the responsibility of raising your own family? Here are some strategies from professional caregivers that can help you to help them – even if you live on opposite sides of the country.
Make a plan for senior care before it becomes an issue
“The older generation can be secretive, but the sandwich generation is more open and aware that communication is important,” says Karen Seebach, a nurse advisor with a caregiver support service. “You need to have a conversation in advance about what they would like to do as they age. Do they want to stay in their home? Does someone have power of attorney? These conversations are very important to start early on.”
Read between the lines
Dad says he’s fine on the phone, but you suspect he’s not taking his medications. The litmus test? Look for a change in the way he communicates. “If a parent is usually chatty and has become quieter, that’s something you need to pay attention to,” says Luanne Whitmarsh, chief executive officer at an organisation assisting seniors. Inconsistent communication from your ageing parent is a red flag that warrants deeper investigation.