Sandwiched and There’s More to it

June 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment


We’re at that stage in our family with aging parents on one side— we’re all aging every day— and younger family with grandchildren on the other side. We know in retrospect that this could happen one day and now we’re there, but we don’t always know what to do with it.

With one parent in hospital this past week, and the other at home, also needing our support, our attention and energies are spread to their maximum, and that comes apart from a career as a freelance editor and writer, and a husband at home with some special needs of his own.

The Sandwich Generation

Carol Abaya, an expert in elder care, writes that there is no rehearsal for parent care, rather parenting one’s parents. “Becoming a parent to an aging parent presents extraordinary challenges.” Apparently it was Abaya who coined the term “sandwich generation” but also “club sandwich generation.”


In due respect to this woman who offers support to people in this position, I prefer to call it the “Dagwood sandwich” because of the many layers, even more than a club sandwich, also in respect to the cartoonist of Dagwood and Blondie where that particular sandwich is likely under copyright. As I mentioned in a speech at my Toastmasters club recently, I’m not nearly as fond of sandwiches as Fred Penner, who sings “Sandwiches are Beautiful” and I endured sandwiches my entire school life.


The thing about the layers is that there are so many of them. There’s the usual tasks to keep one’s home livable, the tasks involved with a business, including keeping it going in spite of all else. There are adult children who ask advice and sometimes other help, grandchildren to spend time with, which I want to do as I can. And apart from care for my parents, whom I also love, there are other positions in my life that may be somewhat displaced during such a time of transition.


It can be a challenging time in which we—the grown-up kids in the middle of things— learn about the support needed. Depending on the circumstances, it’s physical support that’s required, but other times it’s just listening. We care about the whole aspect, not just the physical.


Holding Hands with Elderly Patient

In a recent lecture on senior care and spirituality from the Waterloo Region Gerontology Interest Group Annual Workshop on May 8, 2014, speaker Cathy Joy said, “The conversation might even start by asking …what do I need to know about you as a person to ensure that I give you the best possible care/support?” After you ask, then just wait!”[1]


The support given by family will be different than that provided by professional caregivers outside the family, which is not to say that the family does not have professional resources. Ours does, but we’re pretty close to the situation. We still need to listen for cues of what our parents need from us and hear their concerns, as well as helping to arrange for the physical matters.


It’s an emotional thing for the elders to see small things slipping away, one after another, until the changes become bigger and the elder requires more support, maybe even more than adult offspring can provide. This is where I’m grateful for those organizations such as Community Access Care and the kind and respectful trained professionals within them, as well as having sisters to share the care. We pray for strength and energy to handle the demands and hope for the understanding of others.



[1] Warm Embrace Elder Care newsletter, June 2014, Spirituality & Aging, p. 2, 3.


Entry filed under: authors, community, lifestyle, relationships, writing. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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