A Caregiver's Dilemma

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I don’t know the origin of the phrase "sandwich generation," but it certainly describes of the plight of many middle–aged African Americans who are acting as simultaneous caretakers of both children and aging parents. Resources abound to advise parents about the stages and phases of child development, but unfortunately, this is not always the case with resources for the aging and elderly. Still, support does exist in every community and can be unearthed with a little effort and research.

Identifying the Problem

If you are part of the "sandwich generation," you may be overwhelmed with stress and anxiety trying to meet the needs of two very different groups of loved ones. Without question, parenting is a challenging responsibility. Caring for elder parents or relatives can be equally challenging, perhaps even more so, because unlike children, elders are adults whose age, wisdom and desires must be addressed, regardless of their current physical or emotional condition. Switching gears between caring for children and parents may leave the caretaker physically exhausted and emotionally depleted. If this sounds like you, understand that millions of Black Americans share your challenge. It’s important for caretakers to acknowledge when they’re in over their heads and get help.

Issues And Solutions For Elder Care

Physical Care – Work with a Geriatrician – a medical doctor who specializes in elder care – instead of a General Practitioner who treats patients of all ages. Specialized care is critically important in the management of elder health.

Medication Management – The elderly often live with multiple serious health conditions. Monitor medications for cross reactions – a common problem in which one drug negates the effectiveness of another.

A Home Away From Home – No matter how loving and dedicated the caretaker, some health conditions like Alzheimer’s, incontinence, immobility, progressive senility or physical isolation and depression, are better managed in an institutional environment. Caretakers should research and deliberate with care and caution along with family, friends and medical professionals to determine the most appropriate institutional setting for elder loved ones. The needs of African American elderly are not best served by keeping them at home when professional oversight is called for.

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