My bologna has a first name, it’s OSCAR. My bologna has a second name it’s MAYER.
(Anyone else singing the jingle now? Ah, haha, You’re Welcome!)
Today sandwich, specifically a ‘smooshed sandwich’ is my metaphor. I’m using it in reference to the inevitable feeling that comes with being pushed (or pulled) in two different directions. Simultaneously. An internal tug-of-war! If continued long enough, the struggle can leave one feeling SMOOSHED inside, much like a sandwich…
…and you’re the bologna!
I felt this way when I recognized life was officially welcoming me into the Sandwich generation! Typically, the sandwich generation refers to adults who have littles AND also care for their aging parents. The hubs & myself were formally introduced to this life back in 2009 when his father was diagnosed with ALS. Our littles were ‘just’ grown & a few months earlier we had graduated to the grand roles of Mimi & Papa.
It seemed like it wasn’t that long after his dad moved in that my dad had his event. Incapacitated over night in 2011. It was necessary for him to go to a veteran’s center for 24 hour care. With him not being in the home, my care-taker roll was immediate. See, they were married for 54 years! Just four months after his dementia diagnosis, mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer. To me, I believe in my heart they both were sick long before anyone knew. They compensated one another much more than realized and when he wasn’t there, she started declining rapidly. The four months prior to her diagnosis was absolutely crazy for me. I was already stressed to the max with a company buy out and my dad. Always something at the house.
And now mom. I was being push/pulled in so many different directions. SMOOSHED!
Mom was totally dependant on him. Except attitude. completely independent on that front! lol… The new role of caretaker for my own mother was Over The Top and totally different. Completely consuming. My life as I knew it was on the back burner. Focus was her now.
Everyone has felt that emotional tug of being one place but wanting to be elsewhere. Being needed in multiple places at the same time. Wanting to do everything with everyone, so no one misses out, no feelings are hurt. Let me assure you, that doesn’t work, at least not for long and it didn’t work for me AT ALL.
When you’re a caretaker, the emotional and physical toll is brutal. Constantly wondering if you’re doing enough. If you’re doing all you can. Did you forget anything? When a person your caring for suffers from Alzheimer or dementia, its gruelling on multiple levels.
My mom had always called the shots in our home. She was accustomed to her way, her time, her being in charge and let me tell you what – all hell broke loose every single time one of the young CNA’s tried to get her to do something she didn’t want to! Every Single Day!
Eventually, everything I was doing during the course of my days (and sometimes nights) surrounded the needs of my mother. I bathed her. Helped her eat. Changed her, her clothes, bedding – ensured she was taking her medicine, sat and listened to the same stories over and over and watched television. All while she was a resident at a nursing home. (I don’t know if your familiar with nursing homes but in my experience, they SUCK. I’ll save the bitch fest on that point for another writing though.)
I thought I could handle anything & everything during this walk with her. I was wrong. I thought I could do it alone. I was way wrong.
I found myself walking away from family and friends in order to satisfy myself that my mom was being properly cared for. But In trying to do it all, the overwhelming feeling of being smooshed set in. In the words of my doc “One must take care of themself before taking care of someone else, especially someone with a debilitating disease, otherwise you both lose“. He also informed me he had lost caregivers before the death of the one they were caring for. I believe that. My journey depleted me. I found myself in the deepest darkest places during and after our walk together had ended.
It’s taken over a year for me to find myself again and crawl out of the pit I was in. Thank God for my faith. My hubs and kids. For my grands. And for online groups with people from everywhere to help. Keeping a sense of humor also helps.
So I ask: Are you smooshed? Are you caring for someone and don’t have anyone to help or have help but they suck? (aka nursing home)
This is my personal message to all you caretakers. If you care for a disabled parent or spouse or child, I urge you to seek out assistance. Support Groups are available. There are a ton of online communities with other care givers who share their insights, their struggle, what worked for them and what doesn’t. No one really understands the devastation you experience on a daily basis unless they are/have walked the same pathway.
I worried no one would understand MY walk. I worried I would be judged because I was angry. I worried I wasn’t doing enough or I was doing it wrong because SHE was angry. But I learned thru online support I was normal. What I felt was natural. And my thoughts were not just my thoughts; they were thoughts and feelings of others who shared the same walk long before me and my mom.
Don’t go through your walk feeling smooshed. There is help. And btw, if no one has told you – You Rock!
Til Next Time~