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Watch Your Step!

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Expect the unexpected. ~ Bear Bryant

In staying with our theme of the month about Sandwich generation issues I’d like to take a moment to discuss those unexpected pitfalls which are actually really well mapped…you just might not have noticed the symbols on the map! I’m reminded daily that change is about the only constant we can count on as very few things stay the same for long. The weather, our perspective, the news – these are all changing all the time.

One of the most common holes we have available to fall into is forgetting that to our parents, we are and will always be, their children. We might think we know best or that our concerns are unique; we don’t and they aren’t. Just as we have accumulated some wisdom over the past 30-40 years so have our parents. Add to that a hearty dose of fear and anxiety about their own aging and you can easily see that on many levels our parents know what works best for them. Please don’t take that to mean we can’t have suggestions for what might work better but rather the way we go about presenting our thoughts is going to be critical. Taking the years of wisdom, the fear and anxiety into account will go a long way to having suggestions heard rather than dismissed out of hand.

Our ‘childhood’ will also extend to the very real possibility that our older parents may not wish to expose us to some of the daily struggles they are having. In general, most of us are pretty private and would prefer to keep it that way, thank you very much. While misplacing the keys or needing to check if the door is closed are fairly easy to shrug off, it is harder and far more upsetting when bathrooms are not reached in time or a lapse in memory causes someone to write a check twice or not at all. One older person I knew kept their ever worsening lack of strength a secret by ordering fish or salad when out in public; no one would notice they could not cut a piece of meat or manage to butter a slice of bread. If you can remember to stay gracious and polite, offer suggestions rather than demands and give some space for a suggestion to grow these changes are likely to be a bit more manageable for all.

Just as our parents are anxious about their aging process, it is good for us to remember that we’re anxious about their aging process too! This is one of those pitfalls that seems almost comical; we’re all on edge about our own aging and what it means when we leave the keys in the front door and our parents are equally on edge about the very same thing! While we don’t love the feeling, the concerns are real and are best managed when they are discussed; hiding the feelings only works for surprise parties.

Do you remember coming home from college after the first few weeks or months of being there or after an extended time away from home? Can you recall how some pieces about your parents or the house or circumstances had changed? Maybe just a wee bit but enough that you noticed. This will happen again when you haven’t seen your parents in a little while. Please don’t expect them to be the exact same as they were the last time you saw them, even if that was ‘only’ a month ago. Expect the unexpected and you might find your time with your parent much more enjoyable.

Wishing you all the best this week as you continue to navigate the Sandwich time.

~ Lisa

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