“The Sandwich Generation, those caught between their aging parents and young children, includes some 20 million Americans.
In this emotionally charged account of family caregiving, filmmaker Julie Winokur and her husband, photojournalist Ed Kashi, expose their personal lives with unflinching candor. Winokur and Kashi uprooted their two children and their business in order to move 3,000 miles cross-country to care for Winokur’s father, Herbie.
At 83, Herbie suffers from dementia and can no longer live alone. Winokur and Kashi are faced with difficult choices and overwhelming responsibility as they charge head on through their Sandwich years. It is a story of love, family dynamics and the immeasurable sacrifice of those who are caught in the middle.”
This is a very moving film. I’m not a part of the “Sandwich Generation” myself, as I don’t have any children to care for, and at this point my mother is still mostly self-sufficient at 87. But this film, to me, was more about the aging process and love of family. It made me very sad in so many ways.
Aging is a terrible thing, at least in my eyes. I know my mother is always saying that she doesn’t mind growing older, except for the physical issues that develop, but that’s so much of what aging is all about, isn’t it? Everything starts to go down hill. I see it already at the age of 50. You start to slow down, have more aches and pains, can’t do as much, your body changes, your mind gets taxed, it all starts to crumble it seems. But how wonderful to have such a loving family, as Herbie does, to take care of you in your twilight years.
I worry, though, about who will be there to take care of me as I age. Certainly there is no guarantee of being cared for even if you do have children. I know that I will be there for my mother (as my mom, sisters and I were there for my dad before he died), but who will be there for me? That’s a scary thought. I know that when my dad was dying and we were all there holding his hand and talking to him up until the end, my oldest girlfriend and I promised that we’d be there for each other and would hold each other’s hands…not really thinking through the practicality of not both being able to do that!
The other thing that really stuck out for me in this film was wondering how the elderly father would have felt if he was fully aware of the situation (he had dementia) and the sacrifices his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren were making in their lives to care for him. I’m sure he was once a vibrant, strong man, father, disciplinarian, bread winner and now he needed to be cared for like a small child and was the reason his family was so stressed out. On the one hand, I’m sure he would be very grateful, but would another part of him be terribly upset over this turn of events?
Ed Kashi, however, mentions at the end of the film that he feels that this time with Herbie, while certainly not easy, is actually a “hidden gift”. This is not the first time I have heard people who have ended up in similar situations say something like this. It’s difficult and sad and heartbreaking, but also a gift to be able to give back to our parents, to have the chance to possibly repair some old hurts with our mother or father, to do good for another, to teach children life lessons…but then again, maybe it’s really a life lesson for all of us.