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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

In the Middle

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 11th 2007

Do you know anyone facing the dilemma of caring for a family member and having other and conflicting responsibilities elsewhere? There was a time when middle aged parents were labeled as the "sandwich generation" because they had to deal with raising adolescent children and cope with ageing and increasingly ill parents at the same time. What I have come to realize is that being caught between conflicting responsibilities is something that can visit people of any age.

For example, at the moment I can think of two people I know of two different generations but facing the same dilemma. One is a young woman whose parents are elderly and ill who is deciding that she must give up her graduate course of study in order to return home to care for her parents. The other is an older woman in her fifties who is caring for her very elderly father after her mother died. Each of these people feels resentful about the responsibilities they carry and each has other siblings who could but will not take on the caretaker role for their parents.

Each of these women feels resentful because their parents have had the opportunity to live fulfilling lives. Now, each one wishes to fulfill their own lives but is frustrated by the fact that they have to delay their wishes for the sake of elderly parents. The older woman is a parent and a grand parent who now believes she has reached the stage in her life when she should be able to travel, go on vacations and spend leisure time as she wishes without any long term responsibilities. Her siblings refuse to help her with their parents except for being supportive of placing them in some type of assisted living or nursing home. She has explored her own thoughts and feelings about this but believes it is something she cannot do.

The younger woman is involved in graduate studies preparatory to her entering the health care field. She has never been married and has no children. She wants to complete her training, begin her career and, perhaps, meet a man and settle into married life. Her siblings also refuse to be of any help in caring for their elderly and ill parents. She too cannot think of placing her parents in any type of assisted living home.

There are millions of families facing similar types of dilemmas in which there are conflicting wishes and responsibilities. There are also millions of homes in which one individual appears to be the identified care taker, whether or not this designation was ever made verbally or not. Often, the designated caretaker is a woman but not always. There are many cases in which it is one of the sons' who carries this designation.

Do you know anyone in this situation? What would you do? What do you suggest they do? Your opinions are welcome.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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