Sandwich

Everyone’s heard of the sandwich generation — those still raising their own children when their parents begin needing care. I find myself rapidly approaching that point, not with my own parents, but my mother-in-law.

It’s heartbreaking to see a woman who could (and did) calculate payroll in her head become so confused or depressed that three months of mail — bills, checks, and everything else — is stacked unopened by her chair.

She no longer drives; she no longer cooks, beyond putting a frozen TV dinner in the microwave.

As Hubby begins working on getting repairs made to various pieces of farm equipment, I’ve been through all the mail, organizing, sorting, and tending to business. The bills are all paid now, and a stack of checks have been deposited in her bank. A few were approaching the magic 90-day age when they would have no longer been any good.

She watches the network news every night, fretting herself silly over the war in Iraq, over a president who fired seven US Attorneys (didn’t Clinton fire ninety-something when he took office?), but neglecting the very matters over which she has absolute control. It’s as though she can no longer differentiate between what she can and should worry about, and those things which she can do nothing about.

It’s obvious to me that she does not need to be living alone, but equally obvious that she will not leave her home. I would be happy to help with the daily living tasks, but I live 14 hours away.

What does one do in this circumstance? I am so afraid for her.

7 Responses to “Sandwich”

  1. on 19 Mar 2007 at 3:39 pm girlfriend

    Welcome to my world. You pray a lot. Make more frequent visits and unfortunately try to learn to live with it the best you can. It is like raising children all over again but harder because they are adults who were once independant and productive. Just know you are not alone and you have a support system to sound off to.

  2. on 19 Mar 2007 at 4:03 pm Joel

    Unfortunately, this always seems to fall to a woman, either a daughter or a daughter-in-law. My mom took care of her mother, right down to washing her feet, for years up to the end, even though she was in assisted living. My grandmother had two sons, but it was her daughter who was there for her. It is good that you have a strong family, but that doesn’t make it easy.

    “didn’t Clinton fire ninety-something when he took office”

    As did Ronald Reagan in 1981. Clinton didn’t fire them at the beginning of his second term, and he certainly didn’t fire them because they weren’t sufficiently aggressive in harrassing politicians of the other party or because they were investigating criminal wrongdoing in his own party, the way the Bush Administration just did.

    You are right that your MIL shouldn’t be fretting over these important issues at her stage in life. It’s too bad you smuggled in this bit of snark in an otherwise sensitive and moving post.

  3. on 19 Mar 2007 at 4:58 pm CrackerNation

    Joel, according to Karl Rove, “When we came in in 2001, we reviewed all 93 U.S. Attorneys and over the course of time, replaced virtually all of them with appointees by the president”. So it appears to be SOP in every administration. The oddity here is the loyalty criteria that appears to be the filter in the current purge. I keep hoping they will grow to like competence.

    NM, many of us have been where you are and have felt what you are feeling. It is a time of sadness and of growth of compassion. It is a time to become closer than you have ever been allowed before. Bitter sweet is a nice summary.

  4. on 19 Mar 2007 at 5:13 pm Joel

    The administration also engineered an change in the Patriot Act that allowed Bush to install replacement U.S. attorneys without seeking Senate confirmation.

    “I keep hoping they will grow to like competence.”

    Me too. Instead, they appointed Tim Griffin, a Rove protege with little experience, to replace the well-respected Cummins in Arkansas. The others had all received strong job evaluations–they just refused to become party hacks and were canned.

  5. on 20 Mar 2007 at 8:33 am daco

    Netmom,
    I do feel for you and HWTFM. It has to be very hard for him to live so far away from his mom and see her like this.
    This isn’t advice, just an opinion. She is going to have to be convinced that living on her own just isn’t an option anymore. She may also have to be convinced that it is time to give up some of her independence and allow you and HWTFM to make some decisions for her.
    We all want to be independent. None of us want to live with our grown children, but it sounds as if she is simply unable to take care of herself at this point in her life.
    If she is sufficiently heeled then maybe an assisted living arrangement is in order. There are some very nice facilities in our area. If she is anything like my MIL, maybe you and HWTFM can make room for her in your home.

    I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that the notion of your MIL living alone is a dangerous and extremely sad one. Since we have discussed this situation a little, I do understand that where she lives and where HWTFM grew up is unique and that she and your entire family have special ties to that land. Time to make some changes that aren’t gonna make anyone happy. Welcome to the sandwich club. I’m a BLT.

    BTW, if the pinkpainter and I can be of any help please give us a shout. The pinkpainter has earned her masters in sandwichology.

  6. on 20 Mar 2007 at 12:38 pm daco

    One other thing NM. In recent months, pinkpainter and I have learned more than we ever wanted to know about elder law and Medicaid rules. I would suggest that you and HWTFM make an appointment to meet with an attorney that is a certified elder law specialist. I would suggest that you meet with one in the state where your MIL is going to live out her days.


  7. […] My dear mother-in-law is doing so much better than just a few scant months ago.  Once again, she’s up before the sun, cooking and baking and planning her day.  She’s now willing to get out of the house now and then, going to church on Sunday to show off her bountiful crop of grandchildren, and out to eat a couple of times. […]

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