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hosted by Dr. Corey Allan

Lessons In The Sandwich Generation #621

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Everyone gets the full show today …

This week we are trying something different – this is a conversation from Pam and I while we were driving back from moving a parent into an independent living complex. 

What are we learning while we deal with issues surrounding aging parents – and teenagers?

Listen to find out. 

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Corey Allan: Well, welcome to the show. I'm Dr. Corey Allan, alongside my wife Pam. Which today, in the show, if you're watching you catch it on YouTube, you'll see she's sitting right alongside me the whole time while we're chatting because it's just one camera shot rather than the two.

Pam Allan: It was fun to do.

Corey Allan: Like we normally do, but we try to help people cultivate the space between them and their spouse. And this week is particularly poignant because the space we're trying to cultivate is in the midst of all of the things that can go on in life. Particularly, we're in the stage of the sandwich generation.

Pam Allan: Yeah. Caring for parents and kids at home.

Corey Allan: And so we took advantage of a road trip time coming back from taking care of one of said parents. And what's our takeaways from this? What are we learning in all of this? Because it's coming and going quite a bit. There's a lot of miles being logged between Texas and Kansas the last several years, particularly the last three or four months. And so this is just a casual conversation. And so what we're doing is inviting you to join us in the car ride. And so to get ahead of this, the sound will be different because there's going to be road noise. And if you're watching, which this is kind of a plug for watching this, you can even see the road in the reflection. You can watch the traffic that we're zooming by or is zooming by us.

Pam Allan: Zooming by us.

Corey Allan: I think we were zooming by because if I got somewhere to go, let's go. Let's get there.

Pam Allan: I know there were some crazy people yesterday.

Corey Allan: What we want to try to do is just help frame conversations for what's going on in the stages of your life so that you can apply them and create something better in your marriage too. Because I think those are seamless.

Pam Allan: They are. And throughout, I mean, I think a part of this just goes to show that throughout all stages it can feel like upheaval potentially for you, but it doesn't mean it has to be a divide for you as a couple. It doesn't mean it has to hinder you in any way. I mean, this can be a way for you to grow together potentially. So I think it's a fun conversation to have.

Corey Allan: And this week everybody gets the full show. So, if you're a member of the extended content, the benefit you have for that is there's no ads. But it's the same show for everybody this time. And if we left something that sparked a chord with you or a question or something, let us know, 214-702-9565 or So enjoy the ride with us.
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Pam Allan: Yeah, you can...

Corey Allan: And see where...

Pam Allan: Make your choice on that.

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Pam Allan: So mini meaning M-I-N-I. Not many but mini.

Corey Allan: Correct.

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Pam Allan: Thus the adventure.

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So, we're doing something different. Pam and I are... Just a little bit of our life we're driving, and so I won't be looking at the camera much for safety sake. But we are in the middle of the sandwich generation with aging parents. I've got an 80-year-old father, late 70s mother.

Pam Allan: And my mom's in her late 70s. Dad passed away, so we got mom that lives on her own.

Corey Allan: So we have teenagers at home and parents that we help take care of in some ways that we can because we're two states away, hence we're driving home from moving Pam's mom into a place. And what we've recognized is that there's a lot of things you can learn by being involved with your family, knowing full well that everybody has different experiences when it comes to family and what relationships were and are. But we want to just pass along some of our journey 'cause we're seeing some corollaries between being involved with our folks as well as what we're learning and what it's teaching us about ourselves and each other. And so Pam's got some takeaways. We're just going to expound on.

Pam Allan: I have takeaways. We both have takeaways.

Corey Allan: Well, you're the one that wrote them down. I can't look at them while we're driving.

Pam Allan: There's that. There's that. So one of the things we're seeing here is that this is not only a paying it back to our parents for raising us, but it's a paying it forward as well and hope, ideally, hopefully being an example for our kids to see to how we're supposed to take care of those in our family, take care of our elders, take care of our parents, and just take care of those around us that can't take care of themselves the way that we can when we're fully healthy and have energy about us and have our full mind about us. I mean, the reality is mom is having a hard time with memory and decisions and things like that, and so she's got to have someone step in for her. And that's part of what we do as people as, yeah, I mean, in our world as Christians, if we're supposed to be walking that walk and being good members of society and such, we take care of other people. And that's part of what this is.

Corey Allan: Yeah. I mean, our parents took care of us, and so we get to pay them back in good ways and care for them. And if your kids are involved, like we've tried to make our teenage kids be involved when possible, they get an opportunity to see what family is and what it can be. And I think there's the responsibility, if you think about it, the western society has put death off to the side where you go to a care home, you go to a hospital. Whereas our culture's way before us, generations before us, it was always in a home, like a person's home that you lived with your relatives across the generations. And so that would be much more prominent and prevalent of dealing with the aging process. Which brings up the other point from that of how we are all need to come to grips with the fact that things come to an end.
Death is a part of life, and as we age, it's not pretty. It's sometimes disgusting, but you have to deal with that. And I think there can be some pride and love and compassion. You learn, I have learned tremendous amounts of opportunity for patience and love and care and taking care of aging parents and your mom of dealing with the dementia, the memory losses, the choices, the incapable to take care of some things that you're used to them doing and you get the opportunity to take care of that for them. And that requires some giving, that you grow. I've had to grow too in some ways.

Pam Allan: Well, I think this has been an amazing part of us growing to appreciate one another more.

Corey Allan: Yes.

Pam Allan: Because it's been amazing to watch you Corey, with your parents, with my mother, and the patience that you've had with them. So I think this has been a really enlightening way for us to learn more about ourselves and each other because how are we going to handle these things? This is somewhat of a look into the future.

Corey Allan: Preview of coming attractions?

Pam Allan: Yeah. Hopefully we both get to grow older together and we're going to see these things and I see things that hopefully we all have the phrase, "Oh, I hope I don't do that when I'm that age." Hopefully I remember these things. Why am I even going there? I don't know. But it's taught us each, I think, for sure for me, it's taught me a lot about you and who you are. You've been a super good example for me and the patience with parents, with jumping to being there and helping them live with more dignity. I think that's a key, or that's something you brought up when we were talking before, that this is a way to bring them dignity, being involved, making an effort. We live two states away, but they are worth the time.

Corey Allan: With hundreds of miles logged on the vehicles to get up there to deal with it and be a part of their life.

Pam Allan: And that's an interesting thing too, because as a parent with my kids, oh the things that I wouldn't do for them to help them learn as they're growing up, to help them get a better start in life so that they are better human beings, better adults, and I see these journeys back and forth from Texas to Kansas as an opportunity. Well, we talked about the payback to pay back the parents for what they've hopefully taught us to be.

Corey Allan: And it's a pay forward to...

Pam Allan: But it pay forward to them. But it's a way to let them know that what they did as we were growing up, maybe it worked. Similar, some of what they did. Hopefully they see, okay, I did something right. I got something right in that kid right there. I really think your parents are saying that right now.

Corey Allan: As is your mom.

Pam Allan: Yeah. So hopefully it takes a burden off of them to know, hey, somebody's here and loves me and takes care of me. It feels good doing it too though. It is a good...

Corey Allan: And that's the dignity component you were talking about. That there's this element of, I want my parents and your mom to just have dignity as they age. Because some of life and things that they face, it's not pretty. There's no way around it. But you can do it in compassionate and dignified ways. And I think it's the people, if you're members in the nation that work in hospice care or any kind of senior living care, my heart and hat goes out to you because that is a tremendous mission and service that is offered by the people that just give their life to those as they're winding theirs down because there's huge benefit and love that's offered in that.
And so I think there's dignity that I want to offer to my parents and to anybody I interact with, I want them to feel like they have dignity. But then I think there's dignity we earn and how we go about doing that. One of the phrases I loved from inaudible was, we're not always responsible to our parents in the way they think we should be responsible to them, but I am responsible in how I think I am responsible to them.
And there's a difference because that's me being my own person, not just continuing that this is what I'm supposed to do according to mom, but I can still be involved and engaged in the manners I see that's right. And it's dignified and worthy, and I think that's what brings through.

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Corey Allan: Because when we've had to go through, like the weekend we're coming off of, moving your mom and downsizing again, meaning she's had to give up some things that have meaning and value to her, and we can fight her on it, but we also need to recognize there's meaning attached to it. And so what's worth the fight, what's not. And there's dignity you learn in that. There's love you learn in that because you want her to be surrounded with her things that she loves and has value attached to.

Pam Allan: Yeah. And some of it's realizing as the years I've gone, how am I trying to put this? Not every moment of her conversation is the same mom, right? The memory's not there.

Corey Allan: Yeah. I actually heard that phrase the other day on, with Alzheimer's, I think it was a friend or somebody in the group or something made the comment of, "I lost my father twice with the dementia and Alzheimer's was once and then his actual life." That 10 years later or whatever the timing was. And then you can see the decline in the evolving of them.

Pam Allan: I need to give the lady's name, I forgot the doctor's name I've been listening to, it's a doctor that specializes in dementia care and the caregivers for folks in that situation. And she's so pointed, and it's okay to be frustrated. It's okay to grieve kind of that first loss. But you getting frustrated over their memory loss or things like that isn't going to get anywhere. It makes sense that you will get frustrated over it, realize that you are going to get frustrated over it.
It's okay, but don't spend your time saying, "Woe is me," because that's not going to get you anywhere. Just be there to care for them. Make sure that there's... I think another thought I had on this was in seeing... My dad passed away 15 years ago, and we started having, I guess that forced us into conversations about death and preparing for death, the financial aspect of it, burial, all those kinds of things. And you made reference to Western society. We avoid death, we avoid that conversation, and it's really kind of freeing to not avoid that conversation.

Corey Allan: Yes.

Pam Allan: It's freeing to have that discussion to think about what your legacy's going to be. Not only think about what your legacy is that you're going to leave though, because I think you leave a stronger legacy if you try and live that legacy today.

Corey Allan: Yes. So live it now.

Pam Allan: Yeah. I mean for us to have conversations not only about the financial aspect. I mean, we started having these conversations with our kids about, "Okay, well here's where money is, here's where, here's what this looks like. Here's the actual planning." So they're not surprised. I mean, for the work I do, I see people come in on a regular basis and their parents who had aged and had plenty of time to prepare for things, haven't left them in a good spot. They have to dig through and figure out where everything is. And it leaves such a burden on the people left behind, I think as a married couple, it's kind of freeing to have those conversations and plan.

Corey Allan: Yeah. That's what I think of this is that's the idea of live a legacy now and leave it. Because there's the other component that has run true in the last couple of months, specifically for me. And that's that idea of when you get the opportunity to celebrate life as you live it and as you are caring for somebody that is winding theirs down, my father's birthday was last year when he turned 80 and he did a big kilt party where all the men, there were four of us in kilts, which was great because it was his brother, my father, myself and our son. So we had three generations of Allan's in the family tart and kilts. But it was so great because the people that came to that party were the people that would've been at his wake at a funeral and they had a chance to celebrate him while he's alive

Pam Allan: And probably has another decade in him too.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. But it's still just, they brought cards and they had conversations with him that would've been going on with the family members that were left behind, but he was there. And I'm thinking, how do we have opportunities to celebrate all of life and capture those moments, particularly as it starts to wind down.

Pam Allan: You know what I love about that? I mean, we wanted to celebrate his 80th and have a party. He was the one the year before though, that said, "All right, here's what I want to do for my 80th."

Corey Allan: He claimed it.

Pam Allan: And he is an example of living the legacy. He's a great representation of someone who is living that today.

Corey Allan: As we left this morning after taking mom, Pam's mom into the building, the independent living building she lives in is the same building my parents live in.

Pam Allan: Yay. They're in the same place.

Corey Allan: So, my father's downstairs with three or four other people having cups of coffee and just talking and having a blast.

Pam Allan: Meeting everybody in the place.

Corey Allan: On a Sunday morning.

Pam Allan: Meeting everybody in the place, leaving the legacies.

Corey Allan: Which, the other thing too, that Pam, you were talking about the idea of having to deal with some of the minutia and also watching family members, you get a chance to see who you are, where you come from. And now that applies on it with us because we see traits. I made a comment to Pam as we started to drive home. The one thing that drove me the most crazy was this about your mom and Pam's like, "I do that too." I'm like, "I know, but just hope it doesn't magnify."

Pam Allan: I think what you said was, "Promise me as you grow older, here's what drives me nuts about your mom." You were telling me, "I don't want you to do this." I'm like, "Well, I already do it, so."

Corey Allan: It's true.

Pam Allan: But duly noted. I'll be cognizant of that.

Corey Allan: But the beauty of that, that leads to this conversation right now or this part of the conversation on, how do we constantly recognize the ability to laugh at ourselves and our family in appropriate ways? I'm just laughing at the fact that we're all human, we all have traits that drive each other crazy. I mean, that's what marriage is it's a people growing machine. It's a process of our redeeming and evolving and growing because we get exposed to each other, which exposes ourselves. And how do we have ways to laugh at those things? Because when you can do that and you can just laugh at yourself, life is so much more joyous and vibrant, and we overcome things faster and deal with life better than those around us when we can just bring about the other side of the coin, even when it's dark and depressing and ugly, there's still elements of light that come into there.

Pam Allan: Okay, well, let me ask you about that. I'm going to go a little different route.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Pam Allan: Talking about dark and depressing and ugly, what about people that don't feel like their family is worth celebrating or they've got the wounds from parents they haven't talked to in years and they're like, "I really don't want to care for that parent."

Corey Allan: And that's a valid choice. Some people, the best choice they can make is the cutoff, and they have moved on and they've got other people that are caring for their parents, or they got family members that are already passed. I think in those instances, you figure out, what have I gleaned from them? Because we all take things that trickle from our family. We either take it directly or we go the opposite of it, which is the same thing in a lot of ways. And fundamentally, there's not a lot of variants in there. So if you can look at it and celebrate that, that's what you've gained from your journey, even when it was bad, because how often do we have things we look back at our life that are markers where we've recognized, "Okay, that's the point where I recognized who raised me, or I recognize what I've been up against and I'm doing something different."
You better believe you need to celebrate that because you have just changed a family pattern. How often do we have, I've had several clients over the years that have come in and have said, "My generation, my marriage, my parenting or whatever is going to break the mold of my family." And when you recognize that and now you've aware of it, you can change it. That needs to be celebrated. So that's still our family to think for. Even though it's not something necessarily you're thankful for, but you've learned from it. There's tremendous value in that.

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Corey Allan: Did we have any others that stood out from the list, babe?

Pam Allan: Well, everything comes to an end.

Corey Allan: Everything does come to an end. That is what life is.

Pam Allan: We can't avoid it. There's going to be grief, there's going to be a loss. I think one of the things I loved, a phrase that I picked up and have held onto when my dad was sick all those years ago when, and I learned this from the, I don't know, I'd taken him to a chemo treatment and was sitting in the lobby and a sweet lady was coming by handing out snacks and pamphlets in the waiting room. And she talked about victories in the valley. She was a breast cancer survivor, and she had the phrase talking about the victories in the valleys of life.
And specifically she was talking about victories in the valleys of cancer. But you can use this really in anything, whether it's financial crisis or caring for parents, and you name it, that there is grief and loss. Through that, we can find victories in the valleys of life, in the struggles and the tough times of life. And if we have that perspective of looking for those victories, like you're talking about someone who has changed a family trend, a negative family trend or something like that.

Corey Allan: Or improved one.

Pam Allan: Improved...

Corey Allan: Has a part that just, I've enhanced it a little bit better as part of what makes my family special and unique. I've made it all a little better.

Pam Allan: Yeah. Yeah. So I love that phraseology in thinking how good life can be when I'm coming at it from the point of view of looking for victories that are happening, whether big or small, and celebrating the ones we've had celebrating what those that have come before us have done or meant to us. But realizing all these things do come to an end eventually.

Corey Allan: There was a phrase I remember from when we were only about five years married, attending a Monday night worship in the Dallas area, and Tommy Nelson was the preacher, and he made the comment of, when someone was born, he once heard somebody say, "Well, another death has entered the world at the birth of somebody because that person, we will all die." And it's kind of a morbid way to think of it, but it's true. And then I've just now recently heard of this baby that the divorce rate right now in the west, give or take, is anywhere from 45% to 50%. So that means the other 50% to 55% still end in death. So both marriages will end. And so the question becomes how do you do that? How do you do that well? Because I love...

Pam Allan: How do we end well or...

Corey Allan: How do do well, how do you end well, even when... Because this is where I think it applies to marriage. Even when your marriage is in a tough spot, 'cause I know people that listen to our show sometimes they are in really bad spots, that's why they found us. Well, how do I look at the relationship as itself and end that well, if that's where it's heading, because I learn more about me and my value, my power, and that's where dignity comes in.

Pam Allan: So when I'm married 59 years, still, how do I care for my spouse? Well...

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Pam Allan: Well, okay.

Corey Allan: But that's the flip side of it too. If the marriage is ending at the end and you both have survived, I love the depth of the concept of you're sitting in a room together, living life together while you've got it, knowing one of you is going to go first. But do you stay in? One of you is going to die before the other most likely, but do you stay engaged knowing there's hurt and pain coming? That's what I want with you. I want with you to know I'm welcoming more pain by loving and living life well with you.

Pam Allan: That makes the love all the sweeter.

Corey Allan: I think it absolutely does. So if we can look at and not avoid the fact that things come to an end, how do we actually celebrate that? How do we live to the end well? And another example of that is we've got our oldest heading off to college in a couple of months. That season of our life with her in our home to that degree ends. How do we celebrate and love that process as well as grieve that process? Because we as humans don't like that very often of the component of having to grieve things and having to launch things. We avoid it until it's unavoidable. And so how do we do the moments that market to see it as, "Wait, this is capturing that component of life all the more right now. And I'm taking care of some of what's coming now because I can begin the grieving process."
I mean, we got to do that with your father to a degree knowing it was an inevitability, the type of cancer he had. And so there was the beginning of the grieving process early on before he actually passed. And that's the complexity of and the duality of what we're talking about, of celebrating life and grieving life while it's still going on. Because we're all capable of that and there's good and bad all the way through. And so how do we recognize that and not necessarily welcome it, but welcome it because it is the complexity of a depth of life with other people.

Pam Allan: Well, if we don't welcome it's going to come either way.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. So those are our thoughts that have rung true over the last several months particularly. And then it seemed all the more pointed having just moved her mother this past weekend. And we're heading back home to try to be engaged with life with, again, our kids and those around us and celebrate all that's coming and is going on to do it well. So love to hear your thoughts.

Corey Allan: Well, if you made it this far, then you made it to Oklahoma City with us.

Pam Allan: Well, valid. Yes. That's where we were heading through at that point.

Corey Allan: We wrapped it up and stopped for lunch real quick during that trip. And to me, the takeaway baby, is that stages come and go, relationships come and go, but the ones that last I need to invest in well, because they won't last forever. And so how am I engaging with them and soaking up as much as I can while I can and living in the moments of life as they're going on?

Pam Allan: Right. I think these are some of the things that we're just gifted to be able to do, right? It's a blessing to be able to serve those who we've walked alongside in life. And I also don't want to regret, I mean, you don't want to walk away and regret not doing something that could have been a blessing to them. Also, a blessing for yourself ultimately.

Corey Allan: And one thing that sparked in getting this all ready after listening to segments of the show, again, getting this prepared for air. I alluded to it towards the end of the conversation about the author that had talked about his father, he'd lost his father twice from dementia and then actual life. And the last stages of his life, he was basically also without speech, but he talked about the times that how so profound they were, that the times he would be with him in the home and just sit and hold his hand. And it's a different way of communicating that brings a different level of depth and soaking in time where, to me, that's how that kind of blew my mind of like, "Okay, now we're talking about another way to really be involved and engaged." And I think that's worth kind of noting that there's a lot of things we can do with our spouse that isn't just talking.

Pam Allan: That's a good point.

Corey Allan: And the people we love that isn't just talking. We can can be alongside, we can help, we can support, we can serve. Well, this has been Passionately Married. If you'd like the show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, leave a comment, spread, the word. Transcripts are available on each of the show's pages And also the advertisers deals and discount codes are available at each of the shows pages So please consider supporting those who support the show. Well, if you were on the road today, as you listen to this, safe travels. However you've taken time out to spend it with us. Thank you for coming along for the ride and we'll see you next time.