Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff member, Toni Kay Mangskau
I am a member of the “Sandwich Generation”. Like so many people, I provide care to an aging parent and my children.
The future is unpredictable, yet looking back, at age 16 I had a glimpse of what was to possibly come. My mom received a call one night to tell her my grandmother had been flown by air ambulance to a large hospital in Nebraska and was experiencing heart and kidney failure. My two brothers and I accompanied our mom on the 5 hour car ride. We didn’t talk much during the trip; when we did it was only to reassure our mom we would get her to the hospital with time to say “goodbye”. I am blessed to share we arrived in time.
In 2012, my mom was diagnosed with the same type of cancer her mom had died from all those years ago. Medical advancements had changed for the better, but the feelings of having a loved one diagnosed with a serious disease were the same.
There are so many things I have learned from my mom and grandmother’s cancer experience. The first is how important it is to have those “difficult conversations.” Having the courage to talk with your loved one about their healthcare wishes and desires can be difficult, yet can help to relieve some of the stress many caregivers experience. I have had these conversations with my own children. I have a “Living Will” and Advance Care Directives in place.
At work, I am surrounded, “sandwiched-in,” by pictures of my kids and grandkids. The pictures remind me of the role we all play in caring for each other. For all of us in the “Sandwich Generation”, let’s continue to have deep conversations with our family and loved ones allowing them to be active participants in their care and express their wishes. While challenging, these moments help provide clarity and comfort to all.
Please share your experiences with initiating difficult conversations with those you hold dear.
Send an email to invite people you know to join the Cancer Education Center page.