“Club sandwich generation” is a relatively new term used to describe the “squeezed” generation, usually between the ages of 55 and 64, who typically find themselves caring for elderly parents while at the same time providing support for adult children and helping care for grandchildren. As more and more people live into their 80s and 90s, the number of four generation families is increasing rapidly and it’s usually the second generation in these families who have the time and resources to deal with unexpected events and crises in the lives of the other three.
My sister and I presently find ourselves smack dab in the middle of this kind of family sandwich. Along with our brother, who is not yet a grandparent, we’re dealing with the escalating needs of our increasingly frail and vulnerable parents. The fact that they don’t live in the same province as the three of us adds to the difficulty.
I’m very grateful that our three children are self-sufficient and require very little help from us. The two that have children of their own don’t depend on us for childcare as we live four hours away from the closest one. When we do visit, we consider it a privilege to babysit the grandchildren so that their parents can enjoy an evening out.
The club sandwich squeeze has been much tighter than usual lately though. As I mentioned in a previous post, my 91-year-old diabetic mother, who suffers from severe dementia, was hospitalized about a month ago suffering from a gangrenous toe. As a family, we made the agonizing decision not to put her through surgery. Due to lack of circulation in her leg, it would have required amputation above the knee. There was no guarantee that she’d survive the operation and if she did, there was every likelihood that the other leg would soon be in the same condition. Instead, as hard as it was, we chose palliative care and when we came to Calgary for the birth of our newest grandson, I packed knowing that we might have to fly to Vancouver for a funeral. Fortunately, Mom is doing much better than expected and was even able to move back to her care facility at the beginning of last week. My sister, who’d been in Vancouver for most of the past month, flew home on Wednesday and we breathed a sigh of relief. That lasted about 24 hours!
The next afternoon when I phoned Dad to share the exciting news of Simon’s birth, he sounded terrible. What had been a fairly minor cold had moved into his chest. Within hours, he was rushed to hospital by ambulance. Arriving in respiratory failure, he was immediately put on a ventilator and our oldest son, who lives in Vancouver, rushed over to the hospital to be with him. In club sandwich families like ours, it’s Matt’s generation that provides the other layer of filling. We are so fortunate that Matt is willing and able to jump in in a crisis situation when none of us is close by. In this case, we didn’t know if Dad would make it through the night. Again, I wondered if we’d be flying out for a funeral.
Thankfully, Dad seems to be rallying and if all goes well, he could be home from the hospital sometime next week. This time, it will probably be my brother who flies out to be with him for a little while. I would go but I have to plan around my treatment schedule and until we get the results of the biopsy that I had last week, it’s difficult to do even that. It’s hard enough being part of the club sandwich generation but having cancer has complicated the situation and added to our present squeeze!