Tuesday 14 April 2015

The Sandwich Generation-are we Kidding Ourselves?

While I was preparing the lunch, I listened to part of a call in to You and Yours about people who care for adults and children in their family. This is now available on iPlayer. Like many others, I fit into the definition of the Sandwich Generation-we care for an older relative and have children at home.

Yes, it is busy. There isn't much free time. Many people have children, a job outside the home and an older relation for whom they care. Yes, it can be stressful but we are kidding ourselves if we think this is new. The past was a bit different in that there were more children (think-more work and more help); fewer domestic conveniences (think-no washing machine), fewer women working outside the home but less access to care workers for the ordinary family.

There are two sides of the coin: the caring family that is there to help out. We all want that. On the other hand is the hard work and often, stress. 

Perhaps, my generation thought that we could get out of this. I remember, as a child, hearing people talk about the welfare state caring for older people. But God's Word always applies-it is easier to see this now as it is so obvious that the system can't provide for all of our needs. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the welfare state and that there is basic care for older people without families. However, its provision for the elderly doesn't set the solitary in families. 

We don't have to do all the hands on care ourselves. The woman in Proverbs 31 had other people to help. Still, the family is responsible (1 Timothy 5) and we need to be prepared to care for our older family. We learn about caring for our children but rarely for our older folk. 

Perhaps, our major problem is that we aren't prepared for our relatives to become frail. Yet, whilst some people are still working into their 90s, there are  others who will have to have almost everything done for them to maintain their dignity.

How can we be ready?

  • We need to be aware of the fact that parents and other family members are getting older and at some point we may have to help. That help may be a number of forms: supporting them in their own home, having them to live in our home or helping them find, move into and support them within a care home.

  • While people are well, we can discuss their wishes. If they had to go into a home, where would they want to go? Would they like to live with the family? Would they like to be in a Christian home? Have they visited it? It may be strange having this discussion with someone who is fit and well but this is the easiest and best time for the conversation. 

  • We need to prepare ourselves. God has made us to serve. This may involve the less than glamorous helping of someone who is older to live a happy and fulfilled life. 

  • Talk to those who are already caring. There are plenty around! I was greatly encouraged by an older lady, now in Glory, who had had a large family, a job, was busy in church life and a carer for an older relative. Just knowing that she had managed, was a help but when I asked her how she had survived those years, her reply was By God's grace. There are many things that carers need but none so much as God's grace. 
Please join the conversation. Are you part of the sandwich generation?

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  1. Lovely post. I heard that programme and it was encouraging to hear that some contributors had no regrets about caring for an elderly relative.

    1. Thank you. Yes, it was good to hear how some were very positive about what they had done. Some of the men, particularly, had a "just have to get on and do this" attitude.

  2. I think my husband feels some of that with his parents though at this time his dad is mainly taking care of them. For us some of the struggle is the distance. I was thinking about your blog title and how fitting that is with this topic -- Delivering Grace.

    1. Yes, I well remember having elderly relatives living a distance away and the worry when they were ill or were worried about some dodgy tradesman. Yes, the title is apt although I wasn't thinking about three generational living when I named it!

  3. Thanks for this post Sarah it's really helpful. When my grandad died last year we offered my grandma to come and live with us but she thought that moving from a small town to zone 1 in central London would be too much for her. It's always such a worry though thinking she is on her own we would much rather have her here.

    1. Yes, this is difficult but I think that uprooting an older person is a major life event for them. When we had our older family member move in with us, we realised that we had, in addition to the other things we had considered, to provide opportunities to make new friends and try to help with keeping in contact with the old. Often, people feel ready to move when the time is right and the benefits outweigh the losses.