Take a moment and remember when your parent or parents cared about you by caring for you. In this next moment, remember how they cared about you by being there for you. Nowadays, you may find yourself caring about them by caring for them. Sometimes, but not always, this shift occurs slowly and almost beyond our awareness. But other times, it occurs quickly and with great emotional upheaval for your parent or parents, for you, and for your family.
This may be the first time in which you sense that they are afraid of their present circumstances, expressing anxiety for their future, and confused about how they can and should live their lives. They seem lonely, isolated, and fearful. They may appear emotionally lost in how to use the wisdom learned from their earlier experiences in a new world that is both difficult and very different for them.
This may occur following many losses: loss of a spouse or partner, friends, family, economic setbacks, potential changes in home, changes in social status, and significant health changes. We know that by age sixty five, more than half of us have three or more serious health challenges that can make us dependent on hospitals, doctors, and a world health system that is confusing and difficult to maneuver through. Losing family and friends reduces important social systems in which your parent(s) related for many years, and they miss it terribly. These losses can lead them to degrees of deep sadness, mourning, and depression, all of which can affect their health and diminish their quality of life.
While we know that this stage of the family life cycle is to be expected and normative, the immensity of decisions to be made poses a real challenge for many of you. You are part of the ever increasing numbers of adult-children in the “sandwich generation,” caught between the increasing dependency of your parent(s) and the decreasing independence of your own children. Adult children may find themselves anxious, uncomfortable, uncertain, and even angry with their parent(s), themselves, and their own family and children. Some describe feelings of exhaustion and loss of goals and a vision for the future.
Your struggle is known, acknowledged, and appreciated. It can help to talk with a professional in the field of family dynamics and geriatrics consultation. For over thirty years, Professor Alan S. Wolkenstein, MSW, has been training physicians and counseling families, studying, publishing, and teaching Family Life Cycle and the tasks and skills needed to navigate through them. Call Professor Wolkenstein for a session to begin the exploration of your concerns. Let him assist you in choosing the path that is best for you and your parent.
- Professor Alan S. Wolkenstein, MSW, LCSW, Senior Educator and Consultant
Wolkenstein and Associates, LLC Mequon, Wisconsin, 53092 (262) 243-5489