I’m not a fan of sandwiches, but I grew up during a time when a cartoon character became famous for his. They were called, Dagwoods and they were piled high with every kind of meat, cheese and condiment that you could imagine. This sandwich was piled high over his head. That seems to be an accurate description for the life of those in my generation and even a decade younger.
We are caretakers for our elderly parents while still raising our children, the double decker sandwich. Some of us are helping to raise grandchildren or taking care of parents and grandparents while still having to raise children, which is known as the triple decker. Either way, the common feeling I have heard expressed is “in over our heads.”
It is a lot to comprehend, schedule, manage and wrap your brain around. It can be overwhelming. This kind of lifestyle invites conflict pretty easily and sometimes unexpectedly.
When my dad was in his late seventies, he was living on his own, dating (like you wouldn’t believe), driving his own car and was very active in his church and the neighborhood. My sister and I started noticing some memory issues that we held family meetings to address, but my dad was still having a full life, including enjoying his three grandchildren. One night, he had a stomachache and we took him to the emergency room. He was immediately admitted to ICU and sedated. When he finally came out of sedation three days later, he was in full blown dementia.
In a matter of three days, all of our lives had completely changed. My sister and I were now responsible for him and all of his affairs just like that.
I have watched numerous friends and family navigate similar situations and almost drown in them. The stress, the tension and the conflicts can threaten to shatter the best relationships. So, it is important to be prepared even if you are already in this sandwich.
Here’s the four necessary ingredients for being able to digest all of this:
1. Address The Fear of What If
Yes, no one wants to deal with what if, but the truth is that on top of all the stress you already have, you will have so much more if you don’t. This means, get all of their paperwork in order now. Insurance, medical, wills and yes even funeral services. There I said it. The worst is out there. Straight talk helps. My dad was more than willing to write up his funeral service a decade before we needed it.
2. Enlist Help
You are not the only person going through this no matter how bad your story. My friend Terri V. White at ALaborofLoveElderCare.com shares that in her work, there are so many stories out there and most of them involving people not reaching out for help or reaching out when they are so exhausted they can barely function. Getting help and information is important even before this happens to you.
3. Expect Opposition
Whatever is happening in your life, you can expect your children to push back, because there is not enough of you to go around. You can expect opposition from your parents and/or grandparents, because change is scary and losing independence is humiliating.
4. Schedule In Me Time
No matter what, something has to give. Learn to say no even when it is hard. Schedule time for yourself everyday and be upfront about it. It is not selfish. It is urgent care for you. If you are not doing well, then everyone suffers.
We are living lives that are very different from our parents and if you are not there yet, then get a jump on this because you will be one day. Handling these kinds of conflicts require skills, patience and preparation, but even with that there can be enjoyment. Just like that sandwich that Dagwood prepared. He knew that on top of everything he put in it that put it over his head, the main ingredient was love.
Family conflicts can be hard to deal with. That’s why I created The Soul of Conflict: Creating Peace In The Family Series. It starts March 27th and I would love to have you join us. Invest in yourself and your family now. Go to http://soulofconflictsummit.com/yes