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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Stuck in the Middle with You

The new rules of the "sandwich generation" can mean making decisions for your aging parents and meeting new demands on your time.

A Place for Mom or Dad continued...

Ideally, most seniors would like to stay in their own homes as long as they can. How do you know if that’s realistic? “Make an objective evaluation of what the parent can do for herself and what she needs help with,” says Abaya. “She needs to be able to bathe, get dressed, cook, go shopping -- all the normal activities of daily living. Identify the areas where help is needed, and then assess what resources you can bring into the home to help her stay there.”

Those resources can include other family members, neighbors, friends, church and community organizations, and in-home aides. The Eldercare Locator (, a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, can help you find caregivers in your area.

For most modern families, moving mom or dad into your house should be a last resort, says Abaya -- and even then, only if there's space for them to have some private area of their own. But according to Susan Ito, a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area whose “Life in the Sandwich” column in the online magazine Literary Mama chronicles life with her 84-year-old mother, husband and two daughters, “sandwich” living can have its pluses. For example, her mother’s need for a schedule has had a calming influence on the whole family, Ito says.

“As a family, it’s actually been really good. We used to be chaotic about who ate when, but she needs the routine of regular meals, so we have nice family dinners,” Ito says. “There’s much more of a feeling of what it means to be a family.”

Family Triage

Bursack calls the constant juggling act of caring for spouse, parents, kids and job “family triage.” “You figure out who needs the most care, when and how, and take it off in chunks," she says. "It can be very hard: trying to be really productive at a job when you have hospice on one line and a customer on the other.”

What most caregivers forget to do, she says, is put themselves in the equation. “You have to drop the guilt and realize that you are as important as the people you’re taking care of. Be mindful when you take on another job for yourself. Don’t shove your own needs under the rug. Delegate, delegate, delegate!”

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