Sandwich Generation

How to be a parental caregiver and still keep your marriage strong.

A good friend, Serena,* called me in tears.

"Sam just doesn't understand," she said, "and it's so difficult on our marriage."

Serena, a stay-at-home mother, and Sam, an attorney, live in Milwaukee, a two-hour drive from her parents' farm. When it became evident that her mother's breast cancer was terminal, Serena began to spend several days a week at her parents' home.

She put 9000 miles on her van in 7 weeks in the middle of that icy Wisconsin winter. Sam demanded to know how long the arrangement would last.

"As long as she lives" had to be the answer.

If you think you're hearing more about caregiving than you used to, it isn't your imagination. Almost one in four American households, about 22.3 million, provides emotional or physical care for aging parents, spouses, or siblings. That's three times the number from ten years ago. Seventy-five percent of caregivers are women; many are employed full-time outside the home.

As the population ages and caregiving needs multiply, how can we fulfill the biblical mandate to "leave and cleave" while accomplishing the equally biblical command to honor and care for our parents?

"In sickness and unsupport"

One of her mom's hospice nurses had called Serena in the middle of dinner earlier that evening.

"Three doctors agree Mom is within three or four days of death," Serena told Sam and the girls as she hung up. "They say I should come tonight."

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