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Relieving the pressures of our sandwich generation - Carolyn and Marlin's story

For adults who find themselves in the ‘sandwich generation’ of people who care for elderly parents and have the dual responsibility of supporting children and/or grandchildren of their own, the pressures they face can be intense. Mother and daughter Carolyn and Marlin share their story about these pressures and how, for them, residential care has helped them to spend quality time together.

Caring for elderly parents

When Carolyn Knight’s mother Marlin started to struggle with living independently at home, a serious fall forced them to make a difficult decision about the future. Seven years on, they look back at the day they realised Marlin would need long term nursing care and how this decision has ultimately given them that precious mother and daughter time back. Speaking from Sanctuary Care’s Watlington and District Nursing Home in Oxfordshire where Marlin lives, Carolyn talks about her experience of being part of the sandwich generation, caring for elderly parents.

Working long hours four days a week, Carolyn would spend her day off each week at Marlin’s house 30 miles away from her home in Buckinghamshire. Carolyn would take her mum grocery shopping, clean her apartment and support her with anything she needed. There was very little ‘quality time’ together and Carolyn worried about her mum’s ability to cope living at home on her own.

Carolyn was not alone; the Office for National Statistics says there are currently around 1.3 million ‘sandwich carers’ in the UK, responsible for caring for elderly parents long term, many of whom have no other family members for support*.

Marlin was becoming unsteady on her feet and had the odd trip and fall. However she loved her independence and was determined to remain living at home. Carolyn says: “Every time I showered her there were more bruises from where she had bumped into things. She had spilt boiling water from the kettle and things like that were worrying her.”

Carolyn’s biggest fear was Marlin hurting herself at night and not being able to contact her. She said: “I was very anxious about leaving her.”

One night Carolyn’s biggest fear was realised when Marlin fell. She was unable to raise the alarm for 16 hours because the pendant she wore around her neck to summon help in an emergency was on the sofa.

Marlin pulled herself across the floor, causing a deep cut to her leg and she and Carolyn were told she would could no longer remain living at home and would need long term nursing care to recover.

A fresh start

Marlin was initially upset that she was unable to stay at home, but having moved into Watlington and District Nursing Home, which provides intermediate care and support for people following a spell in hospital, as well as long term nursing care and dementia care, she has never looked back.

Carolyn said: “Mum was initially upset as the decision was out of our hands and she had no idea that when she went to hospital that day she would never return home. But very quickly she said it was the best thing that could have happened because she couldn’t have carried on how she was.”

The renewed bond between mother and daughter

Marlin very quickly started to love life in her new home and Carolyn knew she was safe and being cared for round the clock. Carolyn’s life changed too. She was no longer part of the sandwich generation, caring for elderly parents living at home.

She said: “For me it was the peace of mind and sense of relief that she was safe.”

The ladies loved being able to spend quality ‘mother and daughter’ time together again.

Carolyn said the time they now have to enjoy that special bond between a mother and daughter is wonderful. “It is also great because I can join her when she goes on trips or we can just sit and chat. Now it is ‘our time’ again. Joining her when she goes out and seeing the pleasure she gets, it makes me quite tearful because we are able to do things now that I couldn’t have done with her before.”

Marlin agrees: “I feel very relaxed – you can’t be unhappy here. It’s the friendliness of everyone – and I love having my hair done every Friday. It makes me feel like I am going to Buckingham Palace!”

Home manager Julie Cooper said: “It is really heart-warming to see Marlin and Carolyn spending quality time together and being able to enjoy so many special moments. We actually managed to take them both to Buckingham Palace for real, with a very special trip in Watlington’s minibus. This was a really wonderful time for them both and one of those memories that will always be very special.”

Further information and support

*The Office of National Statistics’ report about the UK’s sandwich generation of people caring for elderly parents and loved ones, was published in January 2019.

Carers UK is a charity that provides valuable help, advice and support for people who care for family members, companions and loved ones across the UK.

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