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Sandwiched: caught between caring for your parents and your children

I had the important experience of meeting and knowing both my grandmothers. This is significant to me, having lived in the U.S. for almost my entire life, because I was separated from the family tree and had only occasional opportunities to go “home” and take shade under the canopy of my enormous extended family.

It was the women of the family who were my grandmothers’ caretakers. I remember wondering how my aunts felt about their lives. While taking care of their mothers, many were also taking care of their own children, and some even their grandchildren while their daughters went to work. It seemed like a very demanding existence.

In the U.S., such people are said to belong to the “sandwich generation”: individuals who care for both children and parents. Latinos are less likely than other segments of the population to opt for parental placement in nursing care facilities. Undoubtedly, that will change and those numbers will rise.

For those of us who adhere to the tradition of home care for our wise elders, the personal sacrifices are many. The overall toll of caring for another individual affects the entire family, not just that of the primary care-giver. But the effects of the stress would surely be mitigated if the primary responsibility were not concentrated in the hands of one person.

Consider simply the economic impact on women. Women already tend toward financial insecurity. The reasons are varied and well documented. On average, women are still paid less than men. Many take time away from the workforce to raise children. Add to that having to retire early due to care-giving responsibilities, and the ability of women in this position to be financially secure into their own elderly years is compromised. They, in turn, will be dependent on their own families for care and support.

Photo:worradmu2

Families would benefit if we taught all children to respect and care for all life, but certainly for our elders. It is crucial that we instill in sons and daughters to share responsibility for the care of their family. A burden shared is a burden made lighter. Of course, changing personal and family dynamics is a fundamental shift that must occur to allow for easing many of the side effects of caring for an elderly relative, but it is not the only one.

Better financial planning within families, to assess future needs of relatives, and planning with regards to the actual labor of caring for the loved one are crucial steps to achieve the best situation possible with regards to elder care. It is crucial to pressure legislators to strengthen laws, regarding what is considered acceptable for dignified institutional care and adequate funding for regulatory agencies to monitor conditions, since some families will be faced with the difficult decision to place a relative in a home. Lastly, forgiveness of ourselves, if we are the ones making these heart wrenching decisions.

About Maitri Pamo

Matri was born in Guatemala City and emigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was a toddler. Her childhood years were spent in Washington D.C. She was fortunate to have been aided and encouraged to apply to a great school in Virginia by a teacher who saw a spark in her when she taught her in the DC public school system. Maitri was disadvantaged in that she then became the only Latina in her class for many years. When it came time to go to college, she left for New York City, the place of her childhood dreams, to attend Barnard College, Columbia University. She graduated with a degree in Foreign Area Studies, with a concentration in Latin America. When she finally realized what she wanted to do professionally, she enrolled in three extra years of undergraduate coursework in order to fulfill the requirements for application to veterinary medical school. She graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

In addition to her professional life, a life she finds not only rewarding but constantly challenging, Maitri is a wife and a mother of three young children. She is an activist, interested in furthering knowledge, participating and directly involving herself in the areas of human and non human animal rights and environmentalism. She tries to engage in the world around her to influence it as much as she can to help secure a healthy, peaceful living environment for her children and all other living beings on the planet. She is a benevolent misanthrope, a polyglot, a lover of travel. She has wild plans of obtaining a law degree when her children are older. She is currently practicing emergency medicine and volunteers her services wherever they are needed.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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