Baby Boomers used to be cool. They used to be the fun-loving rebels. Well, times have changed and, while they’re still cool, they are increasingly becoming known as the Sandwich Generation. Still caring for their kids and starting to care for their parents. There’s suddenly a lot more responsibilities heaped on their plate. (But they are still cool).
The sandwich generation can hit at any time—sometimes when you least expect it. Usually, before you’re ready. But Boomer or not, if you’re already in that situation or foresee it happening in the near future, you should know right now – these two versions of “caring” are definitely not the same thing.
You may have thought raising kids was hard, but at least when dealing with kids you can be The Parent. When they’re little, you have full authority. You get to choose what they wear, what they eat, what they watch on TV and who they hang out with. Of course, they grow up – sooner than your think – and start to voice their little opinions. Cute may give way to “rebellious” in their teenage years – or at least more opinionated. (They’ll think of it as self-confident.) But even then you still have some cards you can play to get them to do what you want – taking away the car keys, the cell phone, or computer time, etc. Need I say more?
But your parents? Well, they’re a different story entirely. As they age, a certain role reversal begins to emerge – especially if dementia is part of the picture. They become less able to take care of themselves – but just like with your kids – they often don’t want to admit it. So what do you do?
All About Caregiving
Be patient. Believe me, this is easier said than done. But it’s the key to almost every interaction you’ll have with your aging parents. Take driving, for instance. If you think they shouldn’t drive, you’ll need to work up to taking the keys away slowly. Just like with the kids, use teachable moments when you can – discuss seniors that have made the news because they had an accident. Discuss the possible dangers – both to themselves and others, while touting the ease and advantages of other types of transportation and home delivery services. Get help from the family doctor if possible.
Respect their points of view. Be aware and prepared that many of these changes you’re about to propose will meet with opposition. You may not agree – and while you may need to use your tenuous power of veto if their choices would put them in danger (e.g. driving or living alone if they have become confused or frail). But listen to what they have to say — and let them know that you understand their point of view. Compromise or make small concessions when you can so they feel as though they have a valued voice. And try to reason with them rather than bullying them to do what you want them to do.
Give them space. If you become your parents’ caregiver in your own home, establish boundaries. Include them in family activities, dinners, etc. so they feel a part of the family. But allow them their own space and time alone as well. After all, most senior adults have lived on their own for many many years and it’s not easy to have to abide by someone else’s rules and schedules — especially when they’re used to the role of The Parent.
If they’re ready to make a move to senior living – or if you feel they should be making that move – start the discussion early. Include them in touring facilities. Talk up the benefits – no need to cook, drive, or do their own laundry. There are fun activities!
Help Through Assisted Living
Discovery Villages at Sugarloaf offers seniors a lifestyle they’re sure to enjoy. They’ll be living among others in the same stage of life. People who are interested in the same activities. Great dinner companions. Supportive friends. And of course, there are a lot of activities – from exercise classes to educational programming, outings, cards, movies, and happy hour. And did we mention gourmet dining? The community offers living options ranging from independent senior apartments to assisted living and memory care – all on the same beautiful campus. When your parents see all they have to offer, they may not need much convincing after all!
And finally, be patient. Oh wait – did I already say that? If they’re upset, be patient in your reasoning with them. If you’re upset, be patient in confronting them. Be patient when they move (and eat and dress) slowly. Be patient when they can’t find the right words. Be patient when they tell you what to do. It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. But in the end, you’ll be really glad you did.