Taking Care of Mom and Dad: The Sandwich Generation

You need to work, your son needs to go to basketball practice, and mom needs help getting dressed.

That is a daily routine for many baby boomers considered part of what is called the "Sandwich Generation."

We are working and caring for both our parents and kids and it is not easy.

Research shows this is the new reality for one-in-eight of us.

After my dad died, my mom started having health issues and my brothers and I had to take a hard look at what was best for our mom.

The five of us spent a couple of years making sure mom was eating, and her grandsons took turns spending the night with her. Then she started staying at my home at night and going home during the day. We tried to hire a caregiver but she had a couple of bad falls and her doctor convinced her it was time to consider assisted living.

Mom agreed. It was not an easy decision for someone so independent but she ultimately picked out the facility where she now lives.

Our parents gave us life, nurtured us, and cheered us on and most people feel we owe our parents the same.

Real Services Director, Joan Cuson, says baby boomers are in this together. "We get a thousand calls a month and the majority of them are trying to keep a parent at home in whatever way they can, the best they can. They're trying to do what's right for their parents and still maintain a life of their own and it's a difficult balance."

In fact, 12 percent of women quit their jobs each year to care for a loved one, full time. However, this labor of love puts women ages 35 to 54 among the most stressed of any age group according to the American Psychological Association.

Cuson says many people do not know there are researchers out there to help caregivers and those who need the care and Real Services. The Area 2 Agency on Aging can help you make the decision about the best way to care for mom or dad.

Cuson says, "Sometimes you can piece together a plan that includes a little bit of home care, a little bit of family support, a little bit of formal support, like an adult day care service or having someone come into the home.”

Like, Milton Adult Day Care in South Bend, a service of Alzheimer's and Dementia Services of Northern Indiana. This home away from home may be the best-kept secret in the area. It is free to veterans, takes Medicaid waivers, accepts private pay for those who do not qualify for aid and has limited scholarship money.

Director Nina Plotkin says the Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 program is a big help to caregivers who must work, knowing their loved one is safe and happy. She says, "They get to be with people their own age, they get to do exercise, they get to play bingo which they don't get to do at home, they get a hot lunch they might not do at home. We interact, we love them, that's basically what we do.

With social workers, an activities coordinator, and two RN's on staff, they can get their medications and have fun. The seniors we talked to say they could not wait to come each morning. Lillie says, "I can't wait to get in the door to see what's going on, there is always something nice happening here."

103 years young, Florence agrees, "Oh I love it here. I've made more friends here than I have had all my life."

Charlee makes it unanimous, "Everybody is always smiling, nobody is a grouch here and it just perks you up."

By going to adult day care, families can often keep a loved one with them or in their own home as long as possible, which experts say is best.

Cuson explains, "Every time you move an older adult from one environment to another you can usually expect some cognitive decline and that is very real."

However, Cuson adds there often comes a point when mom or dad are no longer safe in their home, or ours, and there are signs we can look for.

"Anything you see that is out of the normal for that person, they've lived their life a certain way and suddenly you see a change in behavior."

Cuson says the first trip should be to the doctor to rule out a treatable problem. If the doctor believes assisted living or a nursing home is in order, Real Services can help you find the best place.

There are many options for those on Medicaid.

Cuson says, "There are more opportunities for them, including home care, assisted living and the nursing home, of course. Indiana has a completely open waiver program and what that means is, that the Medicaid dollars used to maintain them in a nursing home can be used to maintain them at home."

While most assisted living facilities are private pay, there are some in our area that accept Medicaid waivers.

Unfortunately, Assisted Living Facilities are not covered for those on Medicare but there is some coverage for Nursing Facilities.

Even so, Real Services can meet with you and find a facility that you can afford. Veterans and their spouses can often get a housing benefit.

Cuson says, "We have all the lists of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We have tips on questions you should ask. You also have to look at the individuals. Are they social or not social, so you want to pick an environment that matches who they are."

Joan, who like my family had to make the hard decision to move her mom into a senior facility, says when the time comes you should be proud you have done what is right for them, adding, "My hearts there, I've been there, it's a difficult road. I wouldn't have changed anything. It made me a better person and it was the final gift for my mother."

A final gift of security we can give those who gave us so much.

More helpful info:

Real Services, Area 2 Agency on Aging
1151 S. Michigan Street
South Bend, IN 46601

Milton Adult Day Services
Alzheimer's and Dementia Services of Northern Indiana
922 E. Colfax Avenue
South Bend, IN 46617
(574) 232-2666

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