The Sandwich Generation

A Virtual Tour of Dementia

The room was large, somewhat plush I guess...certainly an old-person kind of style. Flower prints, large arm chairs, couches where you sink just a little too deeply. I could easily take a nap on these...but even at 220 pounds, they make me feel like a little kid on the grownup couch. Very hard to sit up straight and engage.

Two older ladies, one certainly older than the other...mother daughter I assumed, were already seated speaking and speaking a very tiny woman with died blond hair. I sunk into the couch furthest from them, assuming more people would show up.

This was my first meeting at the Memory Support Group. I think. (Just kidding, could not resist). Jason, Minister of Adults, had greeted me...surprised that I was coming in I guess...(perhaps hope that my comparative youth was something good)? Della and Jason were at a registration table just outside the 'Fireside' room - it was covered in pre-printed name tags...which made me realize..I was not registered.

I had not been sure I would go. The original idea was that I would take my step-father with me, introduce him to a community of other care givers going through different phases of the same thing he was grappling with. I know he is not going to be big on doing anything with the Baptist church....but that is a different challenge. He is in more denial than I am. But I get that. Especially after hearing stories of what others have been going through. It is a really difficult shift - slowly losing a loved one that is right in front of you. None of the stories surprised me, I had been through some of this, albeit at a distance, with my Grandmother Grace.

I ended up moving to a different couch so Jason would not have to keep swiveling his head to speak to us. It looked like it was just going to be me and the two ladies here as the evening attendee's. Jason opened us up in Prayer and then read from Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" This was a good foundation for any support group I would think.

We heard from Della and how, as a working mother of two, with kids headed toward college at the time, she got word that her Sister's husband had fallen ill and was going to have trouble caring for her sister who had early on-set Alzheimer's, she was only in her 50's. The husband ended up passing away and Della worked to get her sister re-located to Plano and set up in the Silverado Memory Care Facility.

Della's mother is another place like this up in Kansas...her husband lives nearby in an 'independent' facility.

I learned a lot this evening. I was struck with the fact that, with two kids, one pre-teen girl and a freshman boy...I was not entirely comfortable with my own adulthood at this point. I am a parent who does a reasonably good job (in my own estimation) but I am still figuring this stuff out. As my son grapples with ADD, I am struck by the behavioral similarities to Alzheimer's. We are early at this point. If my prayers are answered, this will pass. I am resisting this 'Big A' term at this point but I have to accept there is some form of dementia going on.

It just always seemed like there would be more time in the middle here...a restful gap of some sort between these two bookends of like responsibility. It's reality I suppose. I know there are others who grow this...I am not unique and not asking for special favors. Jason and Della told me that we are part of the 'sandwich generation.'

This term was apparently coined in 1981. It refers to this generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.

According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent, in addition to between 7 to 10 million adults caring for their aging parents from a long distance. US Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of older Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.

To be fair. I am not really the care giver. I am very blessed that my mother married a very caring man on her third go-round. He took active hands on care her mother (Grandma Grace) as she declined over a 10 year period...and now is having to take care of my Mom. Mom is way too young to be having memory issues. We continue to chase her memory issues with adjustments to the myriad pills she is on. She has fondly referred to herself as an orthopedic disaster. She is in chronic pain from multiple knee and back surgeries. The abundance of pain pills seemed to be the trigger for these issues.

It was about 2 years ago when we realized that she was not seeing her husband. I continue to try and speak to her daily to reaffirm her comfort and assure her that these strangers in her house are 'normal.' She seems to recognize me just fine...only forgetting who I was twice in the last two years. But I pray not only for her. I also pray for my step-father. For his continued health. Peace of mind. His salvation and his ability to avoid the loneliness that has become his new role.

It would be horrible to lose my spouse. I have a great marriage and so fortunate to be married to someone for almost 20 years...yet I still look forward to every bit of life we still have in front of us. The older we get the more we witness friends losing loved ones to accidents or cancer. But now I am faced with this reality that we can lose people even when they are still right in front of us.