By Shawn Covarrubias, AIF, Vice President, Operations
“It’s only a moment in time.” This is what my father has said to me over the years if I complained about having to do something. My parents have always taken great care of me. They had always been my pillars of strength — until one day this past August the tables turned. One fall down the stairs for my dad, and I quickly found myself thrown into the sandwich generation.
Until this past summer, I did not truly understand the meaning of the sandwich generation. It refers to those middle-aged individuals who are “sandwiched” between the obligation to care for their aging parents – who may be ill, unable to perform various tasks or in need of financial support – and children, who require financial, physical and emotional support.
After navigating through this new role, I’ve learned that this stage of life can come unexpectedly, and at any time. My parents have done a lot to prepare for this time in their lives to make this much easier for our family. We have shared open conversations to help us understand their wishes. They have a long-term care policy, an estate plan, saved diligently for retirement, and even pre-planned for their funerals. What we were not prepared for was the toll it would take on my mom as the primary caregiver. It has also become apparent how much help they need navigating the healthcare system, and the importance of having an advocate for them to receive the best care possible.
As my parents need more care and attention from me, my eldest son is away at university and my twin daughters are in the midst of their college application process. My kids need me as well! Feeling pulled in many directions, I realized that it is ok to ask for help, even from your children. I have discovered that they are more self-sufficient than we think. I also found that I need to take care of my own health. For in order to care for others, you must care for yourself first. It is important to set specific time aside to spend with your family, and to communicate with everyone what needs to be done and what help you need from them.
“It’s only a moment in time” as Norm Kallan would say. I have no idea how long of a moment, but I know there is nowhere I would rather be than sandwiched between caring for my wonderful parents, and my beautiful family.