The following discussion will focus upon the stressors, mental and physical implications of caring for one’s elderly family members. The ‘sandwich generation’ will be described, and further explanation as to what was learnt will be explored. It is evident that caring for one’s elderly parents, and raising young children at the same time, may lead to challenges, and financial implications that the carer might not have foreseen at the time of accepting the responsibility as a carer.
The sandwich generation is defined as people caring for their elderly family and children at the same time within one household. The care giving process occurs on a long-term basis. The documentary by Julie Winokur and Ed Kashi gives great insight, how the life of the carer changes in many respects. In this case the family relocated to a new city, uprooting their children and taking them to a new environment, which proved to be physically and emotionally challenging. The responsibility of being a carer was a difficult decision to make, and the children took some time adjusting to have their grandfather with them in the same house. Basic physical contact between the children and grandfather happened over a period of time due to uncertainties and fear on the part of the children. It is evident that the children had a positive influence on their grandfather’s life, although, the emotional and physical implications of caring for Herb took its toll. The mother pushed herself physically between her work life, children and her father. She didn’t take care of herself as she should have, which meant that she fell ill with pneumonia, and her partner openly admitted the resentment and anger he felt towards his father-in-law. The financial implication was more straining on the family and took its toll over a period of time, even though they had sold Herb’s property in order to gear the money gained from the sail to care for him.
The relationship between the mother and her partner was strained at times, the children felt that their parents weren’t coming through for them, but tried to understand that their grandfather needed their parents. The mother and father felt that they were neglecting their relationship with their children. Therefore, questioning what life messages they were leaving their kids. The positive outcomes of having the mother’s father with them in the house led to a stronger bond between her and her father. The children were allowed to get to know their grandfather and help him with basic tasks which would’ve shown them a different side to life that they otherwise never would have experienced. It is evident that there was a lot of love to go around within the family and it gave everybody, including the grandfather a sense of belonging before he passed away. The negative aspects of the seven years were in the physicality of caring for the grandfather, the physical strain, and even the emotional pain when he started to deteriorate, and in his passing.
Caregiving takes on many different forms; it may be helping a parent who struggles with a chronic illness, or a disability. In some cases caregiving might not be for a parent, sometimes it is for a partner, a sibling, cousin, niece or nephew, or even a friend. If the caregiver is a family member, there could be a potential possibility that they would not know which resources they could access, which would place more pressure on the carer. In some cases the carer are juggling various roles, for instance as a parent, co-worker, or partner. Subsequently, these various roles would place an enormous amount of pressure on the caregiver. It is therefore vital that the caregiver should seek out available resources and consider an impartial party such as a counsellor to talk through their frustrations, anger, and any other psychological strain that may come up on a day-to-day basis. The experience in caring for a parent or other family member can lead to stronger bonds between the caregiver and care receiver, and in some instances making unexpected changes to one’s life may lead the carer to the right place, at the right time.
Statistics are currently indicating that a great percentage of households within the United States are caring for an elderly person. A large percentage of family members are caring for those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and do so in unpaid capacities. In most cases it is advised that the caregiver receives appropriate training for the purpose of reducing risk of injury to themselves and other members of the family. Deterioration of physical health of the caregiver is reported, as their own physical and psychological needs are ignored, and don’t seem to be a priority in most cases. It means that negative emotions such as frustration/anger, depression and guilt become a regular occurrence. In combination other stressors include legal matters, not enough money, uncertainty, change, and long distance care contribute to how the carer manages on a daily basis. Appropriate education and training can assist the carer in knowing which accessible community resources are available to them. It means that education can go a long way in assisting the carer to consider long-term care needs of the care receiver. It is also necessary that the caregiver is aware that it is not expected from them to struggle on their own. There is no shame in asking for help and to take responsibility for their own health. Legally there are aspects such as power of attorney, which is responsible for health care and finance that should be considered and the release of medical information to the correct parties, in order to discuss the health needs of the care receiver. Being a caregiver does have its positive outcomes such as having a chance for the family to bond, and to give back to each other. It can lead to satisfaction in a job well done, and in some cases it leads the carer to become a role model for the next generation.
In conclusion, care giving is a life changing experience, and the decision of seeking long-term care is perceived as a multi-step process. In most cases it begins with helping the patient to understand that they need the help. It means their ability to manage daily activities need to be evaluated and consensus need to be reached as to what type of care would be most appropriate. In some cases carers can struggle with caregiver burnout, and this is where seeking counselling could be a positive asset for the carer to access. Unfortunately when it is family being cared for, the deterioration of a loved one can have an immense impact on those around them, especially grandchildren. For some carers it is a way of giving back to their parent for everything they had done for them as they grew up. These realizations also assist in moulding and teaching the younger generation compassion, the capacity to be present for others, and communication within the family and other members of the community.