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  • Writer's pictureJayne Lisbeth

Sandwiching



CBS News recently aired a weeklong special on “Sandwiching.” I wondered if this was some series on new sandwich ideas, kinky sex antics. Threesomes and orgies came to mind. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Sandwiching” is the act of sharing your home with your elderly parent(s) when you still have young children at home. In other words, sandwiching the elderly, the young or middle aged parents and their young children all together. Family members are smashed together by love and necessity. Peanut butter and jam

Many families do not have the ability to sandwich in their homes, either by lack of room or the enormous commitment necessary.  Those fortunate whose parent(s) have the money to support themselves, are placed in carefully researched Assisted Living Facilities (ALF’s). There, loved ones can be cared for 24/7, with all their medical and daily needs, meals, laundry, clean rooms, and activities  provided. This solution worked for my mother, Tim’s father and his brother. Fortunately, my mom, Tim’s father and brother had resources to pay for their ALF. 



The bad news is that ALFs are becoming increasingly more expensive. The painful fact is that parents might run out of money to pay for their care. Only the most fortunate are able

to cover the cost of ALFs with their social security and pensions, if they have one.  ALF facilities raise their rents at least once a year, pensions and social security does not rise to meet these increases. It’s clear to see where this is going. Sadly,  the longer a parent lives the faster their money will run out. To add insult to injury, Medicare provides no assistance for long term care. 

The saddest cases are those of elderly parents with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Their loved ones are often deep in the vacant dreams of dementia and cannot be left unattended, ever. Their care-giving children must toilet, bathe and feed their parents, often with their parents not knowing who their caregiving child is. Refrigerator doors must be locked.  All doors in the home must be double-locked and alarmed. The special times you have with your own children are now stolen moments. The freedom, the time to lighten the soul and nourish oneself may be few and far between. The entire family is impacted. Yet, most become devoted to the care of an individual who might not even know they are there, or who they are.

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Years ago Tim and I hosted an Airbnb. We learned so much from all our international Airbnb-ers. We had guests from all over the world, including Asians. We must have gotten  on the Asian list of great Airbnb places to stay while in the States. Our reservations soared within the Asian community. We opened our home to Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese guests.  We loved all (well, most of..) our guests but especially enjoyed our Chinese visitors. They were so curious and interesting and loved sharing their stories.

Our Chinese guests were shocked at the amount of room we had in our home. Early one


morning I caught a grandfather snapping photos of all our art covered walls. He circled the entire living room, snap, snap, snapping away, taking pictures of every inch of that room.  Another family wanted to know about our antiques. They were amazed with Tim’s art. These families weren’t just visiting our home, they were studying it, taking in our most beautiful art, our most caring welcoming touches. They often said they felt they were in an art museum, as they wandered through the rooms admiring our art, antiques and knick-knacks. They were discovering our little art museum. We welcomed them, without fearing any negative repercussions.

We, in turn, asked them many questions translating through our phones. We learned that most

“workers”  lived in huge dorm-like many-storied facilities attached to whatever factory they worked for.  They proudly shared their photos with us, validating their love of their home country.  They loved their



country and asked us to visit to see all its beauty. Their apartments were tiny.  The many-storied buildings were attached to a factory, like a honeycomb. Their homes did not look beautiful to me.  I couldn’t imagine how an entire family could live together happily in such a small space. 



They talked about their elderly parents, about growing up, their family values and family dynamics. We learned  that children were taught from an early age to respect and love their parents and grandparents above all else, even their own lives.  This was accepted as a basic tenet of society and family relations. As parents aged they would eventually move into the home of their children or a close relative. Those who do not take care of their aged parents could be fined or even jailed. Their lives would be ruined, their respect lost and they ostracized by all who knew of their crime of not caring for their parents.  To each Chinese family, eventual care of their parents and even grandparents was assumed and accepted as a natural phase of their lives. They knew they’d be taking care of their elderly and that was that.

In my world, Some friends are struggling with the dilemma of providing care for their parents as they watch their parents’ finances, and their own,  diminish.  Some parents and relatives reside in ALF residences or nursing homes. The cost of those facilities are skyrocketing which could drain family funds and generational wealth quickly. One friend is selling their home in order to have the necessary funds to contribute to his elderly mother’s care. Another friend is moving her mother to a smaller room in her ALF; she was charged an additional $500  for a “moving fee.”  She hopes her mother will adapt to this move. Sadly, her mom  is deep in the dreams of dementia and easily confused.  They have families who love and continue to care for them, at all costs, even to the bankruptcy of their own family. These are the fortunate elderly.

There are no real solutions for us Boomers, except to be aware of these problems on the horizon, and prepare for the future in the best manner possible. The advances of medicine have helped us to live longer. We’re more aware of healthy living, eating and exercising. How many of us have an AARP magazine right next to Time?  What are the solutions for our generation, who would love to live happily ever after in our own homes? What if that isn’t possible? How many of us have a pension? Does Social Security cover our cost of living?

Here’s a bright light on the horizon. There are other solutions. Dolores is witness to this. I am always humbled by people older than myself who are  healthy and vibrant. They have their aches and pains, as we all do, but they’ve accepted this as another stage of life. 

I learned a lesson last week



when selling my books at the Oxford Exchange Book Fair. 

I met Dolores. Dolores was looking jaunty and artsy with a red jacket over a  crisp white blouse and beautifully embroidered pants, which her daughter had purchased for her, she told us proudly. Tim and I figured her to be in her eighties. She had set up her table and carried in her boxes of books by herself. She was selling her books, including her autobiography, I Decided To Be An Artist. I loved the title of her book and passed by several times, smiling as we authors do to one another. I told Tim he had to check out the lady behind us who was selling her book, I Decided to be An Artist. Tim sauntered over and had a long animated and happy talk with Dolores, laughing, gesturing, having fun.  

Turns out, Dolores and Tim have much in common. Dolores’ I Decided to be An Artist  is full of art history information, artists profiles, her career as an artist, the artists she has met and befriended over 60 years.  Dolores has studied all over the world and graduated from college in 1958. She comes to Tampa every year from her Philadelphia residence for “the art museums, classes, events and weather.”  As authors often do, Dolores and I traded books. I can’t wait to dive into I Decided to be An Artist.  Her autobiography is about her life as an architect, artist and designer. Dolores chose Writing in Wet Cement. I warned that it is my very honest memoir. I laughed at myself. Dolores has seen a lot in life and enjoyed every minute. She doesn’t need to be warned about honesty.

We packed up and departed without realizing Dolores had already left.  As we were walking to our car a tiny two-seater silver car beeped at us, the woman yelled happily to us and waved.  Of course, that jaunty woman with the stylish red jacket was on her way home. We laughed and called out to her, “See you again, Dolores!”

We boomers are all growing older. Hopefully, we will still have our wits and our health in a reasonably good state. Art, writing, mingling, observing, partying, napping, cooking, talking, laughing would be a continuation of our lives now.  Let’s do our best to continue on our path, with the help of our beloved friends and family.  Until then, let’s adapt a  joi de vie attitude.  Let’s all be Doloreses.


I Decided To Be An Artist, autobiography by Dolores Rita Slakoff Browne, published by DesignReasons Corporation. Available on Amazon


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson




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2 comentários


rmrogers22
05 de mai.

Beautifully written as always Jayne. This is a real eye opener for all of us. We can learn a lot from the Asian culture. In our culture it’s a real problem.

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Jayne Lisbeth
Jayne Lisbeth
06 de mai.
Respondendo a

So very true. I was amazed at our Chinese guests and that there is punishment for not taking care of your parents!

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