Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, December 31, 2007

We want to thank you for helping us achieve our goals in 2007. By your subscribing to our newsletters and reading our blog, we are encouraged to continue speaking out to Sandwiched Boomers. Our very best wishes for 2008 - we hope it's a year where you engage your passion so that your dreams can come true.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some Sandwiched Boomers change as a result of an an illness, a divorce, a death, or even an epiphany. What about not waiting for something to happen. How about making a change for no particular reason.

Give it a try - choose one thing that has been bothering you. And, as a gift to yourself for the new year, change an attitude, an entrenched idea, a behavior. You'll be surprised by how much better you feel.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

One of our most precious commitments, as Sandwiched Boomers, is to embrace and care for family. This holding and nurturance is the biological heritage of women.

During the next few days of reflection, we have the choice of believing in the possibility of change. And at the beginning of this new year, we can join together and reafffirm our resolve. Now is the time to master our personal conflicts, to love wholeheartedly and to support each other as we seek to turn our concerns about family and ourselves into opportunities.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

As Sandwiched Boomers caring for parents growing older and children growing up, did 2007 fly by for you? Are you busy wrapping up the year and wiping the slate clean? Or, now that the celebration is upon us, are you thinking about making new year's resolutions? Some women refuse to even consider the possibility as they regard it as an exercise in futility.

However, there are positive ways to see the beginning of 2008 as an opportunity to set realistic goals. Don't make a long list of what you should do. Think about your dreams and hopes - what's important to you. And then open yourself to the possibilities.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

We hope that you're trying to attend to your own needs while still honoring this week of family togetherness. Let your plans for the new year include nurturing yourself. As you begin to lay the groundwork for change, treat yourself to better health by keeping your stress in check.

1. Ask for what you need. Pronounce the holiday meals potluck and don't feel guilty about it. If they want to, let your family help with the dishes and clean up. Accept your friend's offer to bring an appetizer, or even the main course, to the New Year's Eve party. They'll all be glad to play a more active role and you'll have the time and energy to participate in the festivities.

2. Give yourself a break. Instead of worrying about all the desserts you've eaten, use that energy for a brisk walk in the park. Or pay off some debt rather than taking the family on an expensive outing; they will understand and grow from the experience.

3. Find emotional support. With the challenges of college age children coming home, integrating new in-laws into the family unit and caring for the growing needs of your parents - take a breather and call a friend. Share your feelings about what's going on with your family – relish in getting it off your chest, gaining some positive feedback or having a good laugh together.

You've worked hard to make the holidays special for all the family. Now receive, from yourself, a virtual stress-free voucher - relax into the idea of some relaxation and peace of mind.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Americans are busy spending well over $26 billion on gift cards this holiday season. And, just when you thought you'd heard it all, here comes the idea of a medical gift card. With Christmas literally right around the corner and your stress level high, it may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

This unique card is being issued by Visa and the targeted audience is the Sandwiched Boomers. They are the ones buying presents for aging parents who have increasing health needs. They're also looking to gift their emerging adult children who are at college or living on their own and concerned about their fitness. The gift can be used toward a variety of health related services – prescription co-pays, medical or dental visits, contact lenses, even some wellness programs, elective surgery and gym memberships.

For that special someone who has everything or the hard-to-buy-for one on your shopping list, it's the perfect idea. And your contribution will help your loved ones stay healthy in the New Year.

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Here are the tips we promised this week to help you care for yourself as well as your aging parents when their golden years are tarnished. You can use these suggestions to reduce your Sandwiched Generation stress during the holidays and long after:

Give up your ideas of perfection and be realistic about the path ahead. You will not have the benefit you had imagined of involved, wise, old parents in your life. Acknowledge that the dementia will steadily increase and your parents will become less and less responsive to you. Be respectful of your parents' dignity even as you transfer control over their circumstances from them to you.

Evaluate your options as you keep an open mind. There is not one correct solution for everyone in your situation. It is helpful to hear from others what they have learned but you are still the only one walking in your shoes.

Look for resources in the community to help you. Recognize that you can't, nor do you have to, do everything yourself. Contact local gerontologists, talk with hospital social workers, meet with health care aides, visit nursing homes, join a caregiver support group.

Be honest with your siblings about their responsibilities. Even if you've been in conflict when them in the past, resolve to have an on-going dialogue now and be firm about finding a way to share the care-giving duties.

Take care of yourself to decrease the burnout that is common. A good support system gives you the opportunity to express your emotions and receive comfort. Set aside time for rest and relaxation, difficult as that may be to arrange. A sense of humor will get you through some tough times, as you laugh through your tears.

Look at how your past relationship with your parent has affected your present way of life. This is especially important if your parent was abusive when you were growing up. Decide to let go of the tendency to define your behavior today as a response to the memories you hold of your childhood. Make up your mind to make changes in your behavior that benefit you now.

Grow up. As you take on the complex chores of caregiver, you are the one ultimately making decisions about your own life as well as that of your parents. Both Wendy and Jon Savage matured as they reconnected with each other and their father, making dramatic changes in their lives after his death. They were able to trust themselves and take chances to achieve what they wanted, both professionally and personally.

Just as in the aptly named children's game, tug-of-war, you in the Sandwich Generation may feel like you are in a battle zone - pulled simultaneously from both sides and stretched to the limit in the middle. It is a struggle to sense the breaking point, which must be done to protect yourself for the long haul. It's not easy to put limits on the connection with your aging parents, but you need to place that relationship in the context of the rest of your life. Trust yourself as you design a plan that works for all of the family, yourself included.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

At this time of year, the holidays with their comforting repeated rituals can be bittersweet when our loved ones are not with us to share them. It is even more poignant when aging parents are there physically but not mentally. They may not remember the joy of holidays spent together in the past nor recognize the new members who have joined the family circle. As a Sandwiched Boomer, you may be facing these kinds of holiday celebrations with apprehension.

No doubt, your parents had looked forward their sixties, seventies and eighties as golden years, with the chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors. But what happens when those days become tarnished gold? What if nothing you or your parents do can restore the shine you all were expecting? This is what faces Sandwiched Boomers each year when their parents are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, senile dementia or stroke.

Today, dementia of some kind has affected 14% of Americans over the age of 71 and the incidence is rising. Caring for these seniors generally falls to their Baby Boomer children; studies indicate that one in four families now take care of an elderly parent. Often the caretakers are women. According to a recent AARP study, 8.7 million American women aged 45 and older are caring for both aging parents and growing children. How they, and their brothers in some cases, cope with these demands is of increasing concern.

Now even Hollywood has begun to look at the dilemmas faced by Sandwiched Boomers. With the Academy Awards season right around the corner, the buzz is out about "The Savages," a film looking at Sandwich Generation reactions to an estranged, aging father. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings, Wendy and Jon Savage, who can be described as Open Face Sandwiches – suddenly thrust into caring for their abusive father while they deal with on-going crises in their personal and work lives. How they respond, and what they learn about themselves in the process, mirrors the situation for many Baby Boomers.

If, like the Savages, you are propelled into caring for a difficult parent, undoubtedly you will sacrifice many things – time, sleep, emotional stability, money, energy, days at work, dreams of your own. Because of these extreme pressures, family caretakers report having some kind of chronic condition at more than twice the rate of non-caregivers and research suggests that this additional stress can shorten lifespan by up to 10 years.

So what can you do? Stay tuned in for seven tips to reduce your stress and help you get through the holiday season when your parents golden years are tarnished.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

There's a lot riding on family time during the holidays and this can create stress for Sandwiched Boomers. There's the challenge of trying to accommodate so many others' needs and still not compromise your own. Of course, there are the ghosts of holidays past, coupled with the expectations of today - sometimes unrealistic and often unfulfilled. Try the following tips:

1. If you get into a conflict with a family member who is unreasonable, don't take the bait. Despite how hard it may be, go for the higher ground and walk away.

2. With a relationship that matters to you, take the time to bury the hatchet. If in the past you have gone underground and then blown up later, don't let these feelings fester. Acknowledge the part that you play in the conflict and deal with it now, once and for all.

3. Whether family members are with you in person or in your memories, learn the power of letting go of childhood pain and longings. Forgiveness becomes a gift for both of you.

4. Recall what you love about your family and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Point out their positives qualities rather than focusing on the negatives.

Perhaps you don't have many models for repairing the family and may have to make it up as you go along. Trust yourself in the process - often the messiness of emotions leads to understanding yourself and others better. Conflict can serve as an invitation to grow when you honor the importance of relationships. A lot of people feel that, with family, there are no returns or exchanges even with a gift receipt. So embrace the holiday season and rejoice in the love, support and connection of your family relationships.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

With the festive season suddenly upon us, we've decided to dedicate the next few blog posts to ideas about how to reduce holiday stress.

If the widespread commercialism is getting you down, here are some ways for Sandwiched Boomers to spend less time racking up credit card debt and more time taking care of yourself:

1. Realize that the anticipatory anxiety you may be experiencing about the holidays is quite normal. Questions about what to do and how to do it - with the apprehension that comes along for the ride - are common for a lot of families at this time of year.

2. If you're traveling home to your parents, remember to pack your patience. Old family dynamics and unfinished business are bound to surface. Make a decision this year to leave behind the baggage that is too large to fit in the overhead compartment.

3. Explore the possibility of your out of town guests staying in a hotel. After the discomfort of bringing up the idea, it actually might be a relief for all of you; and the beginning of a welcome new family tradition.

4. You don't have to be all things to all people all the time. If Aunt Sue doesn't get along with Uncle John's second wife, make it easier on yourself and stagger their holiday visits.

It's important to appreciate the traditions of giving and receiving. But the accumulation of stuff can't hold a candle to the gift that matters most. This year, recreate the joy of simpler days by bringing the priceless gift of relaxation and calmness to your family gatherings.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

A few days after our return from a wonderful trip to China, my husband had a bad fall and was in the neurosurgery ICU for several days. That was a month ago and, despite the initial uncertainty, I'm grateful that he's getting stronger every day.

However, I'm now very aware of the fact that life can change in an instant. This was an important turning point in our lives and its impact continues to shape our family. I'm committed to cherishing every minute of our time together. Even though I still feel vulnerable, I know that we are resilient. At this stage of life, I think we need to learn to accept uncertainty. And to live the life we want now.

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