Reflection

Reflection

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Sandwich Years

 Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will
(You know he never will)
And the patches m
ake the goodbye harder still

     I never thought life as a grown up would be like this.  Of course none of us can know what our lives will become as the years stroll by.   I'm speaking though of the Sandwich Years, of when our parents have aged and need care and that some of us have young ones needing care too.  Granted that I did have R. at a later age than the young 20's when I had my girls; whereas some of my peers are having grandkids, I am in the teenage years of parenting with no grandkids.  Some of us have adult children that need our emotional and financial care with the economy the way it is.  We may have our own financial worries that we never expected. 

     In the past 15 years our parents began having health problems that at the time seemed like they dealt with them and didn't need our assistance.  Well, of course we were there for the moral support they needed but they didn't want or need our advice.  Just our love.  My Papa dying 12 years ago was the beginning of the crisis era with the parents.  Suddenly the roles started to shift and the children (us) of the parents began to worry of what lay ahead.

     In the past 12 years my mom had multiple surgeries, appeared to be in a depression over the loss of Papa (perfectly expected with how much they loved each other), and began her descent into FTD  somewhere in there.  We couldn't reach her though she yanked our chains plenty, we tried everything from counseling, calling her Dr.'s, setting up boundaries, to being passive towards what she acted like behaviorally to keep peace,  all the while our worry and frustration growing day after day.  We tried to ask of her long term plans, her estate, all with no success.  Now the pieces are placed and they have fallen as though she is in a warped Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, where she is trapped in her castle with no Prince who can come to her save her.   Forever she is in a spell of perpetual unrest.

     Enough of the fairy tales.  Life isn't that.  We are born, we grow, we age.  Facts are proof that the elder generation is aging to longer Golden Years than ever before.  But are those years as Golden as they wish they could be or dreamed they would be?   If they can live longer than those of their own parents then how will those extended years be lived?   I can say first hand that neither my parents nor my husbands parents have thought this intelligently through.  What happens when you can live that long life but are no longer able to understand your true needs?  Or that you refuse to accept you really need help?  You can't take care of yourself and your family watches with breaking hearts how the parent they knew to be fully aware of themselves is no longer fully there mentally or physically.


Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

     This past year my Love's father had a heart valve replacement, to fix the one he had done 11 years ago.  An extended warranty so to speak by going in and replacing the worn out one.  Okay, the valve replacement surgery went fine but since that surgery in January he has been going down hill.  First it was in his strength he complained about.  He didn't have the energy like he did before.  We tried to remind him he had had major surgery where his chest was cracked open to do the repair job.  It takes time to build up that strength.  Next it was his weight.  He couldn't keep up his weight, he kept losing weight, and he wasn't very hungry.  We reminded him that it was important to eat well to keep his strength up.  If you don't have the good nutrition with healthy meals then you won't be able to give the fuel your body needs to keep strong.  At least he attempted to take walks near his home.  

     Over the years he has been the primary caregiver to his wife, our mom who has had her own health problems.  He unfortunately is a very stubborn man, and that is being polite.  He won't let anyone help her which ultimately would help him.  He wants to make every single decision.  With his failing health, his ability to help her has increasingly diminished to where he is unable to care for her.  She has been at risk for too long.  He refused to have safety fixtures in all the places she needed them.  Her last fall, in the shower, was a nightmare.


Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still


     With great worry, emotions on high, relief, frustration, concern, mom has been removed from her home and into respite care.  Dad was sometimes wanting her out of the house NOW or the answer was NO she could not leave.  Sister and brothers finally had enough of watching Mom suffer.  Sometimes the hardest answer is the only solution.  For now Mom is safe with round the clock care in a very pleasant, warm, supportive atmosphere.  She has her own studio apartment with healthy meals, exercise classes, and entertainment a couple of days a week (the holidays have been great for this with choirs coming to sing for the residents).  Naturally she is having swings of missing home, missing her husband, to peace.  The long term story is still unwritten.  Her Dr. knows in her home would not be good, especially with the awful wound from the shower fall.  The family all feel that she should stay where she is and not go home, knowing that Dad will not be able to take care of her and the ugly scene that will ultimately happen all over again.

     Making decisions on what to do when each of us age to the Golden Years and beyond should be well thought out.  We don't just die in our sleep anymore, or from sudden heart attacks or strokes.  You may be incapacitated and unable to walk, or drive.  You may get Dementia and unable to make the right choices or decisions or even be prone to Elder Care Abuse.  We all need to ask ourselves the hard questions and come up with clear answers for yourselves and for your families.  

     I have heard so many times my mom saying she never wanted to be a burden.  Yet she created a burden by not including her family in what would happen if she couldn't care for herself or make sound decisions.  While she indeed did a Trust and we can only assume that it was done correctly, she made some serious poor choices and I believe was not counseled by her attorney well.  Then again, what choice does an attorney have if a client makes or changes their Will or Trust and they can't convince their client that maybe they need to think about it or consult their family.  An attorney works for their client not the client's family.  It is private unless the client wishes their family to be included.

     No the problem arises when older folks ignore their frailty and think they can continue life as it has been.  Even when they know they shouldn't drive a car, climb a ladder, or take on home care like when they were physically able.  They need to accept their aging bodies and ask or accept help.  Not doing so is the burden.  Asking is not a burden.  Allowing is not a burden. 


     When I was in my early teens I use to love listening to Cat Stevens.  I have heard this song so many times and knew the words by heart.  I may have sung them but I did not understand the meaning.  Somehow in my 50's this song brings on a new meaning in my life.
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time


 

Earth Tour 1976  ~ the young musician I loved to hear as a teen


                            
                                      2008 ~ I really liked hearing him speak.....the older man he has become                                         

5 comments:

Ms. Moon said...

So much wisdom born of experience here. But how DO we make plans for our eventual downhill slide into death? So many contingencies, so many possibilities of how things will go.
I swear to you, Ellen- sometimes I wish there WERE death panels. Okay, not really, but we should all have the option of being told the truth about our diagnoses and outcomes and be allowed to skip the agony if we want. Legally and with help.
That's what I think.

Birdie said...

I had heard of the Sandwich Generation but I never knew I would fall into that hole. Looking after my mom, caring for two teenagers while trying to work full time has been bigger than I am. But, I forge on. I don't know how I do it.
My dad is only 63 and the house we just bought has a basement suite so my dad has a place to live as he ages. He could never be a burden.

emily wierenga said...

"enough of the fairy tales." such a courageous statement, friend. i'm almost there... still clinging to some of the magic, i'm afraid, but almost there. love you. (ps. LOVE cat stevens)

emily wierenga said...

ps. i might share the second video in my imperfect prose on thursdays this week, if it's okay with you?

karen gerstenberger said...

How true this is! We are in that phase now, with Gregg's parents needing to leave their home for assisted living, and my parents getting along all right, but slowing down. I think that your experience could lead to a very helpful book or speaking engagements, if you were so inclined. A "map" of sorts is needed, isn't it? Perhaps a flow chart of questions and decisions that need to be answered/made, when we are healthy and able, so that they safety net is in place if, someday, we are not. It would save much heartache and stress on everyone. Thank you for sharing your experiences on your blogs so that others may benefit from what you have learned. God bless you and your extended family!

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