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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.

Tune in to the Rest of the Family

What about the other half of the sandwich -- your kids and spouse? In all the caregiving for elderly parents, you may worry that you’re neglecting the rest of the family.

“Kids have to be educated the same way as adults do,” says Abaya. “But they understand more and better than we give them credit for.” At one program, Abaya heard from a woman whose 10-year-old daughter was constantly fighting with her grandmother because the grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s, would accuse her of stealing clothes.

“Before I could answer, a woman in the back of the room raised her hand and said, ‘I have the same problem.’ Her mother was accusing her son of stealing food. So she sat down with him and explained what Alzheimer’s was and what was going on in his grandmother’s brain, that she was sick and didn’t know what she was saying,” Abaya recalls. “The next time she accused him, he gently took her into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, saying, ‘Grandma, here’s all your food.’ Very simply, he defused the situation. If kids understand what’s going on, they can be very insightful and very helpful."

Last but not least, try not to neglect time with your partner. Private time together may seem like something that has to go by the wayside in the face of more urgent demands, but research shows that sandwich generation couples who make time for each other cope with the other stressors of their lives much better.

“The relationship that really seems to matter is the one with your spouse,” says Margaret Neal, PhD, director of the Institute on Aging at Portland State University, who surveyed over 300 sandwich-generation families nationwide for a book on working couples caring for children and aging parents. “It’s what many families say gets them through the tough times, so don’t neglect to nurture that relationship.”

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Reviewed on July 01, 2007

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