as You Care for Your Aging Parent
If you’re a member of the “sandwich generation,” if you’re taking
care of your aging parent as well as your children, it’s hard to
shake the feeling that if you focus on one generation you’re losing
sight of the needs of the other.
It can help to remember – to realize – that your taking
care of your parent is good for your children, too. How so?
You’re right that your kids also make a sacrifice
because you can’t be around as much as the they would like you to be
and, most likely, they have to do more – become more responsible –
because you can’t be there. (Maybe they have to make their own lunch
to take to school. Or you can’t be a chaperone at some school event
even though you were able to do that a year or so ago.)
Yes, in some ways a child is being deprived of what a
parent might be able to give if he or she didn’t have caregiving
obligations to an older family member (or to a spouse who is ill or
to a child with special needs) but – from another perspective –Mom
or Dad is giving something to that child or those children that he
or she otherwise couldn’t give. We mean a front-row view of love in
action without any possibility of mistaking the unchangeable fact
that true love demands service and sacrifice.
Still . . . it can be a lot to put on little shoulders.
All they may see at first glance is that Mom or Dad isn’t there (or
is there but is exhausted from caregiving and holding down a job)
and they miss not just what that parent does for them (nice meals,
rides to practice and so on) but also that person himself or
herself. They miss time spent together. With that in mind, here are
a few suggestions if you’re taking care of an aging parent and your
--Talk about caregiving at a time when neither you nor
your child are tired and emotions are not running high.
--Do something special with each child, one-on one.
--Explain what it’s like to be a care-receiver,
how it can be hard to accept help. Talk about why you’re taking care
of Grandpa or Grandma and explain – in an age-appropriate way –what
his or condition is.
--Work at establishing a link between your children and
your parent. Let them have some time together.
--Remember children can, in small ways, help with
--Teach what respectful care means and explain the
difference between “dignity” and “dignified.” Yes, at times, a
situation may be less than “dignified” but a person must be treated
--Remember to thank the child for making sacrifices and
for helping you help your mother or father.
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