The sandwich generation: Helping aging parents while raising children

Mariela Ollsen looks after the welfare of children in her professional life with the Guardian ad Litem program.

"We are the voice of abused, abandoned and neglected kids here in Pinellas and Pasco," Ollsen explained.

At home, she's responsible for the welfare of her mother-in-law, Ruth, who has Alzheimer's, and her 11-year-old son.

"It's been an adjustment because everything changes, vacations change, even going out to dinner because you have to make sure everybody is taken care of," said Ollsen.

She is an example of what is known as the sandwich generation.

"Sandwich generation is people who are taking care of their parents or an elderly person, and children," explained caregiver advocate Linda Burhans.

Burhans says Ollsen's situation has become all too common. 

"Years ago, the whole family came together to take care of each other. Today, both parents have to work. It wasn't like that in the day," said Burhans.

"The person who raised you all of a sudden you become the person who is taking care of them," agreed Ollsen.

Caregivers need to remember to care for themselves to avoid burnout.  

"If you can just stop during the day and stop for a couple of minutes and breathe it makes the world of difference," suggested Burhans.

Getting outside support is also helpful.

"Just help them, just go offer to pick up their children, offer to spend a couple of hours with mom so they can go off and get a haircut or do whatever. We need to help them, not put another burden on them,” said Burhans.

"The support group that we go to has been very helpful, asking questions, not being afraid to take advice from other people," said Ollsen.

Kids and grandkids can pitch in.

"Involve the kids in some of the duties to,” offered Burhans. “The grandchildren could sit and spend some time with mom while you're making dinner instead of you trying to handle everything.”

"He has developed an amazing relationship with her, and as a mom, it has been wonderful to watch. Because when she's no longer with us, he will have really great memories with her," said Ollsen of her son. 

She doesn't see it as a sacrifice, but giving back.  

"To me this is just how we're saying thank you to her," Ollsen added.

LINK: Linda Burhans offers resources for caregivers. For more information: