Take One Bite at a Time
by Deb Silverthorn
At the core of the sandwich, between delicious pieces of “children toast” and “parent bagel,” imagine slices of school tuitions and senior care, condiments spread thin of extracurricular activities and medical facilities. And there, in the middle, is the meat—baby boomers and Generation X servings of protein and nutrients.
According to the Social Security Administration, adults now 65 years old are expected to live approximately 84 years with nearly one out of four living past the age of 90 and one of 10 past the age of 95. With many of us starting to have families years later than before, it’s not uncommon for us to be simultaneously supporting our parents and our children—with our money and our time.
How to succeed when caught in the middle? One bite of that filling sandwich at a time.
“It’s a balancing act to manage it all, and you must care for yourself. It’s seemingly impossible to find that hour, or a few, to get to the gym, listen to music, read a book or do whatever you love to do, but you have to. There has to be an ‘aha’ moment of realizing that the caretaker’s own time isn’t negotiable,” said Dr. Sandy Gluckman, a specialist in learning and behavior problems.
In her Frisco, Texas practice, Dr. Gluckman counsels many families in this challenging situation, believing there are many lessons to be learned for everyone involved. “When you’re with your kids, that’s their time, when you’re with your parents, the same,” she says. “‘Love the one you’re with,’ as the song goes,” advises Dr. Gluckman, whose book Parents, Take Charge is revolutionizing the way children with learning and behavior challenges are being treated. “Your kids are watching how you behave with your aging parents. You are setting an example for them of how to care for you.”
A key to success for any family is recognizing that setting out the ingredients is prime to a great recipe. Whether it’s financial planning for our children in college or the living arrangements and medical care of our parents or, as hard as it is to discuss, their wishes should they become physically or mentally incapacitated, setting the table before you sit down to take a bite? Essential.
“Pre-planning is so important. From ages 18 to 93 illness happens, accidents happen, aging happens. Everyone needs an advance directive to make sure that their wishes are known,” said David Stanley, owner and Chief Caregiver at Custom Caregiver, his most gratifying professional role. “Unfortunately, with regard to parents, it often takes illness or tragedy to decide ‘now what?’ There’s only a blink between running a few errands for a parent to providing fulltime care.”
“Those of us in the ‘sandwich’ are constantly advocating—we have to. In classrooms or social situations for our children and regarding the personal affairs of our parents, we must advocate, always on-guard,” said Stanley, the father of a young child, blessed too with a new grandchild and his 87-year-old mother nearby. Custom Caregivers helps advocate for aging parents by providing fall prevention, companionship, care for Alzheimer’s and dementia and grooming assistance, continence care, meal planning and preparation, medication reminders and light housekeeping in homes, assisted living facilities and retirement communities throughout the DFW metroplex. “Do what you can to make your life in the middle more manageable and peaceful. Plan early, review the plan often and look out for speed bumps. You can only control what you can.”
Get ready for life’s picnic—set the menu, enjoy the meal and take it one bite at a time.