CARING IN DuPage
The Sandwich Generation
TAKING CARE OF OUR PARENTS AND OUR CHI LDREN
I n the health care profession, we have a common term to describe those who take care of their aging parents as well as their own children, whether at the same time or under the same roof. We call these families “the sandwich generation,” and the situation is becomingmore common. We work with a lot of members of that special “club” here at BrightStar Care, and I can definitely relate to the challenges associated withmanaging your caretaking responsibilities while also juggling family and career with what little time remains to take care of your marriage and yourself. My own story as a member of the sandwich generation came through the kind of hardship that may not be common for everyone, but which I hope nevertheless demonstrates that you can give yourself a little grace. You can get through with a little help and support from your family, friends, and faith. My dad struggled with vascular dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. It progressed in severity from the early 2000s until he passed away in August of 2018. For many years, my siblings and I took care of Dad, looking after his health and financial affairs andmoving him to different skilled nursing communities as needed. On top of that, though, I have two sons —one of whomwas diagnosed with autism a few years after he was born. For years, I balanced these responsibilities — getting the necessary care for my dad through multiple care facilities, doctors and specialists, emergency hospitalizations, court proceedings for guardianship, and financial accountability—all while wondering if my son would have to leave our family too. I wondered if his aggressive autistic behaviors and
additional neurological challenges would necessitate permanent placement in a group home campus setting so that he could receive the proper care, attention and behavior modifications. It was too overwhelming.
I think it helps to know that there are many of us in similar situations. When you’re taking care of a generation ahead of you and
behind you—both of which have dire needs at multiple levels of care— things aren’t always going to go the way you need them to go. Sometimes, for lack of a better way to put it, things break: families, finances, marriages, our own health and well-being. I think some of us have this idea that life is about pushing toward victory with a health issue, and that if we don’t reach resolution, we need to try something else or get more help. But it’s not that simple; life has hurdles. What’s really important is howwe respond to and rebound from adversity. When it comes to family, friends, and spiritual faith, life sometimes goes beyond human understanding. Is it not amazing how some people continue to overcome, despite prolonged seasons of challenge? Even though I no longer have to care for my dad, I treasure the memories we made together, and I honor his service to our country. Years before Dad passed away, my family found it best to place our son in a group home setting, and his mother or I visited him every 2 – 4 weeks. I lost my son to a group home at age 12, but at age 26 he is thriving; his quality of life today is something that neither his mother nor I could have provided for him. I look back on those years and think: How did I survive? How did I persevere and even find joy whenmany would find only despair and depression? I’ve found that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an end to hardship. The light is found in everyone who gathers around you and helps you through it. For years, my faith, family, and friends helpedme get up and move forward. Support is crucial when the suffering becomes unbearable. There’s nomanual for how to successfully get through life— the best thing I have found is to surround yourself with people who love you and bolster the faith that will help you persevere. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon says there’s a time for everything—even suffering. When that time comes, don’t ask yourself, “Why me?” Ask yourself instead what kind of person you will be when you get through it, and you will get through this. —Leonard Sanchez Director of Business Development
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