My husband and I are part of the new phenomenon called the "sandwich generation". We are caught between our family and our aging parents. Many of our friends are faced with the same circumstances. What is a person to do with the plights and perils that go along with meeting the needs of our loved ones?
The answers are not as clear cut as they were for previous generations. People are living longer. Better medical care, living conditions and overall quality of life lead to a longer life span in industrialized countries. It affords us the modern dilemma of independent aging adults within families that may not be ready to take on the responsibility.
My parents and I have had many conversations about who, what, when, where and why concerning their health and long term care. My husbands', not so much. It has given me so much pause to see the reactionary panic that strikes my in-laws every time there is a medical issue on that side of the family. As I have married into the family, it is not my place to "dispense wisdom" and speak into the situation. I can, however, offer myself as being of service.
We live 2,500 miles away from my in-laws. It has been difficult at times to be at such a distance. The idea of offering my skills and talents to be available to help is all I can do at times when things are tentative. I know that there are other family members that are too obligated to be able to be of any use. My husband has work obligations, his siblings have their own family to concern themselves with. We have a dog and our world is relatively transportable in comparison to theirs. It is only natural that I step in and be the chauffeur, the cook, the nursemaid. I cannot imagine anyone else doing these things.
Yet, again, it is not my family. This is the quandary of the "sandwich generation". What to do to help those that need it most in our world. How do you help your family? How are you serving your parents or aging relatives? What is the best course of action for those in your family? All of these questions are the thing that faces us today and in the near future. None of the answers are easy. Food for thought from one volunteer heart to another.