The sandwich generation: Realising that Mum or Dad needs help 54



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For many of us, there will come a time in our lives when we come to the realisation that our mum or dad needs more help and care than we can give them. Maybe it’s already happened in your family – maybe you’re in the middle of it right now – or maybe it’s still to come.

Let’s be honest – this can be a very sad time. Our parents were always there for us when we were growing up and throughout our lives, and it can be very difficult to come to terms with the fact that their health is declining.

For many baby boomers, it’s an especially challenging time. This is because they may still be in work and still be providing a degree of care and help to their own children. This is why boomers are sometimes referred to as the “sandwich generation”.

Sadly, this can be a time in which you may feel riddled with guilt and anxiety. Sometimes, our parents don’t want to recognise that their care needs have become significant enough to mean they need round the clock care in a residential aged care facility, and it falls to us to convince them of the need.

That’s why we often feel guilty, because we feel like we’re pushing them to do something they don’t want to do.

If this sounds familiar, there are four important things to keep in mind.

Firstly, ensuring your parents get the care they need is one of the most important thing you can do for them. When their care needs become too much for you to handle yourself or can no longer be provided at home, the only responsible course of action is to assist them to find the aged care facility that is right for them.

Secondly, aged care isn’t all bad news! In fact, it’s only getting better. I visit aged care homes every week and am constantly impressed by the level of care and support on offer. The standard and quality of care people receive in nursing homes in Australia is increasing every day, providing an excellent quality of life for older Australians. Think yoga lessons, reading groups, happy hour, movie nights, tango classes… these are just some of the activities aged care residents participate in every week across Australia.

Thirdly, you don’t have to go it alone. It’s already an emotional time for you and your family, but to make matters worse the aged care system can be bewildering and confusing. That’s why you might want to consider using support services to help you manage the transition. There are financial planners that specialise in aged care to help you figure out the best way to pay for your mum or dad’s care. There are also placement consultancies that provide case management services to help you manage the whole transition to care for you. If you’re mum or dad is in hospital, there are often social workers who can help you with the move to aged care as well.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the move to aged care can actually be the start of a really positive part of your relationship with your parents. Often in the lead up to the move to aged care, as their health deteriorates, your relationship can become characterised by fear, anxiety and guilt. But once you’ve found them the right aged care home, you can start to focus on the positives again. You don’t have to worry about whether they’re being looked after and if they’re getting the care they need. That will be a huge relief – for both you and for them.


Tell us, did you have to put someone you love in care? What was that experience like?

Lydia Paterson

Kate Ffrench is a Melbourne mother who helped found Care Guidance, an aged care placement consultancy that aims to help take the stress out of the transition to aged care for Australian families. They provide case management and consultation services to help Australians find the right aged care for themselves or a loved one.

  1. I had to put my Dad in care as he was deteriorating both physically and mentally. I found a lovely facility in our town that had lock up as Dad was a wanderer. The facility was very close to where we lived which was great. They were wonderful. All the nurses were trained in Dementia and Dads odd behaviour was no big deal. As the nurse said ‘he will fit right in here.’ Such a relief to have him with people who understood what was happening to him. He was also incontinent with his bladder and he was very embarrassed about it. The facility had a whole team who assessed his level of incontinence and it was no big deal. He actually told me that he liked it there. A huge relief for me.

    1 REPLY
    • What a wonderful daughter you are to your Dad Debbie – you definitely made the right decision and I’m sure your Dad would be proud of you xx

  2. Enjoy them while you can. Losing a parent when you’re 18, then a Mum when your 34 seemed acceptable at the time but as time goes by you realise what you’ve all missed out on.

  3. Chances are Mum or Dad will have realised this long before you have. In recent years, my health has deteriorated rapidly and even though I’m only in my early sixties, there are things I just cannot do but, for the time being (with outside help), I can manage. My greatest fear is being a burden on my family – either financially or otherwise. Do what you can to help them continue to live independant lives but should the time come, do your research and try and ensure that the facility is a good one.

  4. We will stay in our home as long as possible, if & when the time comes, We will check ourselves into a nice nursing home, I will never be a burden to my children, it’s their time to enjoy their lives, same as my husband & I have.

    1 REPLY
    • Yet both my sisters are falling over themselves to-care for my mum ( Aged 91 ) I have been around her for the past 15 years of her widowhood and it never felt like a burden ! Different values and attitudes here I think . We, the adult children see it as a blessing to have the privilege to have her.

  5. Great story ☺️I’ve been a carer for my 85 year old amputee mum for the last five years left a great job to do this but I know there will be a time when she will probably have to go into care she is sharp as a tack but I had breast cancer last year going through radiation I some times think I’m missing out on so much when you are confronted with your own health as well as hers but I dread the day as I know she just loves being at home as I promised her when she had he leg taken I would never put her into care and that seems to be my worry Scared of Karma he he

  6. Not only their health but also their continuing quality of life to consider. An aged care facility offers better quality of life with others of their age, and with many internal activities and outings.

  7. I actually wouldn’t want to become such a burden to family. I’m sure that as long as I got visits and still felt like part of the family I could cope.

    2 REPLY
    • Never confuse how family relate to you when you are in your home and how , nearly always, the relationship and chat completely change once you are ensconced in a nursing home. It is never the same as before . You are not free any more . Try leaving !!! Only in a box .

    • Sounds sad Jeff. I doubt I will live long enough to make a nursing home, so hopefully I won’t have to experience such changes.

  8. Looking after my mother was not an option for me. She is in a very good facility, one which I’d be happy to end up in. I feel no guilt.

  9. Interesting story. Found it difficult both times but especially for dad who didn’t want to go. He would rather have stayed in hospital but they said he had to go. Only lasted 3 days….

    1 REPLY
    • My heart goes out to you Margot… You did what you thought was right for your Dad.. And it was – the end result would have been the same whether he stayed in hospital or not xox

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