The Big Squeeze
What if you're a parent raising children, but you're also taking care of your parents? Welcome to the "sandwich generation," the 20 million-some folks who find themselves caught between their kids and their aging parents.
Filmmaker Julie Winokur and her husband, photojournalist Ed Kashi, found themselves sandwiched. Julie and Ed left the West Coast and moved their two young kids and their business to New Jersey. There they took on the challenge of caring for Julie's father, 83-year old Herbie. He suffers from dementia and could no longer live independently.
"He needs help with everything," Winokur says of her father, "Bathing, dressing, shaving, shoes on and off, managing medications twice a day." There are also the normal demands of family life, with Winokur's and Kashi's pre-teen children. "There's not a minute of the day that somebody doesn't need something from me," Winokur says.
We are a society that places a premium on independence. We assume everyone can and should be able to take care of themselves to the last. Then when parents need assistance in their daily lives, the adult child takes on a sort of parenting role. The parent becomes dependent, like a child. In many cases, the folks taking care of the old folks are old themselves. With people living longer, people in their 60s and 70s are taking care of parents in their eighties or nineties. Demands, pressures and anxieties pile up.
And very few of us will escape eldercare issues. One of the fastest growing segments of the population is people above age 85. By 2030 or so, it's estimated that there will be 60 million Americans between the ages of 66 and 84. Most of them will need some sort of care.
Yet Kashi believes his kids are learning a powerful life lesson about love and caring for someone through thick and thin. Winokur herself is preparing for the inevitable. She's already warned her children that she's going to move in with them someday. "Hope you guys don't mind!"