Often families are made up of three or more generations. When a parent, or aunt or uncle, becomes ill or is no longer able to cope on their own you can find yourself juggling the needs of your children as well as those of your older family members.
It's been called the sandwich generation -- the baby boomers who are still raising their own children while coping with the needs of their ageing parents and other family members.
When a parent, or aunt or uncle becomes frail or ill it can put enormous strain on the generation in the middle. It's also difficult to provide the support that's needed when so many families are spread around New Zealand, and even the world.
The important thing is to try and find a solution that ensures the older person is cared for, respected and is as happy as possible without sacrificing the life of your family at home.
In many instances this will require several members of the wider family to develop a strategy to support the older person. You might come together to plan what you will do or, if you live in different areas, talk to each other by phone or email. Work out what each person can contribute and who else could be involved. Are there any close friends or neighbours who could help? What support services are there in the community?
It's important that the older person stays in charge of the decisions affecting them if they are able to. There's nothing worse, when you are older, than having decisions made for you by other people, no matter how well-meaning they might be.
Often during these conversations your brothers, sisters, cousins or other members of the family will have different views from yours. Discussions can be emotional and even heated. Negotiating our way through this sort of conflict will only work if you start with the assumption that there is no right or wrong point of view. There is simply a difference that needs to be worked through. It will help you if you respect the other people's viewpoints as well as your own.
You might not take into account how stressful it can be when someone you've looked to for guidance and support shows signs of growing frail. It's easy to fall into dealing with situations on a practical level without realising the emotional toll they are taking.
When you come to this realisation seeking help to get back on your feet again is a positive choice. It can help just to realise you're human -- admit you're under strain. Don't be too hard on yourself and let others cope in their own ways.
And remember to take opportunities to talk about how you're feeling -- with other family members, a trusted friend or maybe a counsellor.