What the ‘Sandwich Generation’ Tells Us About Heroes

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by Sherri Woodbridge |

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I heard something recently that was new to me — that we are living in “sandwich times.” In other words, this is the “sandwich generation.” It’s a time in history when many are simultaneously caring for both a child at home and a parent.

Caring for a so-called normal child or adult can be difficult enough. But when you throw a chronic illness into the mix, it is plain hard. Spending your days changing diapers in both newborn and adult sizes probably isn’t the life you had planned, nor is it the life you had wanted.

Mythology scholar and writer Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

When I heard the times we are living in referred to as the sandwich generation, it made me think of sandwich hugs, in which a person in the middle feels squashed when they get one. Feeling sandwiched happens when middle-aged people are still parenting children under 18, and at the same time, they are thrust into the role of caregiver for elderly (or not so elderly) parents with chronic or terminal illnesses. 

They might have given it some thought previously, but probably not much. This might have included thoughts of what may come one day, but they probably didn’t expect that day to arrive so soon. 

Now imagine being thrown into a “sandwich” situation in which you also have been diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease. You might wonder how to hold yourself together in such a situation. How will you keep on keeping on?

I have Parkinson’s. I also have three children, but they don’t live at home. My parents are doing well for their age. With my husband’s help, I take care of myself.

I don’t have the added responsibility of taking care of others. And I can’t imagine the burden those with Parkinson’s might carry coupled with the added strain of caring for others. When do they rest? How are they encouraged? What do they do when those they depend on walk away? Who do they turn to for help and support?

Some say people who have Parkinson’s disease are heroes, but I never understood why. I don’t think of myself as a hero at all. But in the Parkinson’s “sandwich industry,” there really are heroes. Real heroes. And they are in desperate need of a squishy sandwich hug.

If you are a “sandwiched” person with Parkinson’s disease, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. I will be exploring this topic further and appreciate the insight others might have. You can also email me at: [email protected].

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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