Children First: The sandwich generation of family caregivers

Thursday, December 15, 2022
Children First: The sandwich generation of family caregivers
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The term "sandwich generation" refers to young to middle-aged adults who are raising children while supporting their aging parents.

FRESNO, Calif. -- The term "sandwich generation" refers to young to middle-aged adults who are raising children while supporting their aging parents.

Three generations of the Cobarruvias family pitch in to make tamales. It's a family tradition.

Maria Cobarruvias is 79 and has dementia.

"So, you know how there are short term memory and long term memory? Well my grandma, she remembers stuff from when she was a kid, but like, if you ask her something, she forgets it," explained Catalina Perez, Maria's 9-year-old granddaughter.

Because of mom's memory loss, she's definitely living her childhood a lot more frequently than she used to. And so she would ask about her pets. Her roosters," said Rosa Perez, Maria's daughter and Catalina's mother. "We've definitely tried to include a lot of her childhood into her home environment so getting to roosters and making sure we have pets around the yard, they are such as support as well because they bring her comfort."

Rosa Perez is part of the sandwich generation. She cares for her mother while also caring for her children.

"You never feel like you're doing enough in any role that you have, but you try your best," said Rosa. "Both myself and my brother Felipe, who are her primary care providers, are full time employees and are fortunate that our employers also understand that situations arise with her care."

By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's dementia is projected to reach 12.7 million.

"For the caregiver there's loss of income. So, there's an expense that happens to the families they're caregiving," said Susana Rodriguez with the Alzheimer's Association.

Most families may not qualify for the Medi-Cal assistance program, like in home support services to receive some funding. So, this is a paid a lot of times for out of pocket."

The family found support at Valley Caregiver Resource Center and Alzheimer's Association. They learned a technique known as compassionate lying.

"Getting into her world, so my brother came and she automatically thought it was her uncle. Being able to go with that and not question her or correct her has been very important lesson that we've learned in our journey," Rosa said. "It may be difficult to have my children see mom in her moments of distress. I think it's very important for them to recognize that this is part of the life cycle for her. I don't want to shelter them from the realities of what is our family. So, I remind them that this is her sickness or disease, not her."

"When we paint it's just like amazing how she does so good at it. Like, I'm okay, but I'm not as good as her like, she does it super good," Catalina said." "It's good to be there for them. So, when they passed away, their memory could still live on and on."