Torrie says: I feel as if I am sandwiched in between the younger and older generation. My parents are now in their early 70s and need increased supervision and care. Our four children are equally divided between middle and high school. I work part time and really enjoy my job. However, I am now struggling with the need to attend sports events, share carpool for the kids, keep our house, work my job and, increasingly, attend to my parents’ needs. I have a brother who lives in Wyoming, but due to the physical distance, he has not been very present in our lives.
Brad says: We have been married for 18 years. Our marriage has been terrific! Torrie and I have welcomed each child’s birth and have put a lot of time and effort into our children’s education and extra-curricular activities. My parents are getting along in years, also, and fortunately, I have three siblings who live in the area and we all pull together when my parents need assistance. I am very supportive of Torrie and understand her growing stress and try to help when I can. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, my business often dictates longer hours than I would like to work, often leaving the caretaking to Torrie for both the children and her parents.
What do they do?
Caregiving to both children and parents is “do-able,” but as parents age and teens become friskier, it becomes a daunting task. Torrie and Brad need to take measures to reduce their stress. We suggest they contact their local county agency on the aging to schedule an in-home evaluation for Torrie’s parents. This would allow a professional care manager to assess her parent’s needs and to find out if they qualify to receive supplementary support.
Even if Torrie’s parents do not qualify for financial reimbursement, the assessor from the county can suggest resources that might be available to provide some in-home or adult day care to lessen the time they spend with the parents.
And perhaps Torrie’s brother could contribute in some way to the care of their parents by financing an in-home care provider to come in a couple days a week (thus alleviating the necessity that Torrie would have to be present herself). The brother also could invite the parents to join him in Wyoming for a month or even a few weeks, occasionally, to give Torrie and Brad a break.
The children might also be able to assist in some way, if only by raking the grandparents’ lawn or visiting them for a few hours, doing their dishes or wash. Such pulling together will strengthen the family ties and teach the children how important they are to the family’s contribution.
Caregivers need to learn how to set goals and tasks, but also how to set limits. Dr. Richard Swenson, in his book “The Overload Syndrome — Learning to Live within Your Limits,” indicates it is important to limit your activities and to provide margins for yourself.
This couple will not be helpful to anyone if they allow the busyness and stress of caretaking to interfere with how they accomplish their needed family and business activities. That kind of pressure can ruin their own health and diminish their happiness.
Care providers also need to avoid the idea that no one can care for their parents as well as they can. Seeking help is not a failure on the caregiver’s part. Torrie and Brad should continue to take time for one another and their children so they will have the stamina and recuperative energy to provide assistance to parents who most likely will eventually need increased care. The ability to refocus and reframe elderly behaviors is often not easy. Our elderly charges have spent a lifetime dancing their particular dance with those around them, and sometimes that dance is not constructive.
Brad and Torrie have a lot of “pluses” in their relationship. They appear to have a positive and healthy marriage and can communicate to work together. The caregiving needed for Torrie’s parents appears to be accepted voluntarily by them, which can be a joy if there were 36 hours in a day. However, since only 24 hours are provided in a day, it can become a stressful job … for any couple or individual, no matter how well intentioned and positive they are.
Brad and Torrie, gain comfort and strength in these words: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).