an invisible kid sitting behind a mother and her mother

The "Forgotten" Ones: Children of the Caregivers

Stuck in the “forgotten” generation. Many find themselves in this “forgotten” generation through no one’s fault, but just as the result of the dynamics of Alzheimer’s disease.

Who are included in the forgotten generation?

You might assume that when I write about the “forgotten” generation that I’m referring to those with Alzheimer’s disease. In actuality, I’m referring to those who are watching a parent now take on the role of having to take care of their parent.

Instead of the parent caring just for their children, they now have to care for their older parent (the grandparent) too. The focus and energy of the caregiver quickly shifts. Our parents are now the sandwich generation. And with the sandwich generation, comes the “forgotten” generation.

The “forgotten generation” sit by and watch our parents step into a role that is challenging, time-consuming, exhausting, and confusing. The stress that wears on our parents’ faces and bodies is taxing in all areas of their lives. While we watch our parents approach and tackle a different role than usual, we have to shuffle our own role.

We must learn to deal with the everyday losses of the grandparent with Alzheimer’s disease, who we love and admire. We grieve for the person we once knew as the strong individual that nothing could takedown, that now has become a person that daily is becoming someone we are not recognizing and losing.

The children of the sandwich generation

We observe our own parents, the sandwich generation, perform a juggling act of caring for our grandparents with Alzheimer’s disease; while we take our own needs and wants and push them to the back burner so as not to burden our parents.

We step up into an adult role before we really want to or are even completely able. We struggle with selfishly wanting to be the sole responsibility or attention of our parents, but knowing all too well that that can’t be the case nor do we really want our parents to leave our grandparents behind. We struggle alongside our parents, but in a different way. We want to demand our parents’ time, but we know that they need to be there for our grandparents.

It’s an internal battle we wrestle with and often times it is a very lonely battle, as we don’t want to burden our parents because they are already dealing with so much more than we can fully comprehend; this is their parent after all. So, we struggle in silence.

We understand that our parents may not be there for us during the morning routine, at a school outing or sporting function, to put dinner on the table, and to say good night to us. We come to accept it. We fight it, but we tolerate it because we see our loving and caring parents bear the burden with a compassionate and giving heart.

Losing a grandparent with Alzheimer's

Our hearts break for the loss of what was, what could have been, and the time that is being robbed from us. We hate that this disease has stolen our grandparents that were always there for us; such a pillar of strength and wisdom. Now they have become someone we don’t find ourselves recognizing. Our grandparents have the same familiar outer appearance, but their behavior seems so foreign to us.

We stare into those blank eyes of theirs, desperately searching for anything that looks familiar. We gently take our grandparents’ hands in ours and smile back at them, wanting them to see that it is us, their grandchild. The one they poured so much wisdom and love into. We are here, wanting eagerly; looking to grasp on to any bit of memory of who we were together.

Watching your parent deal with losing their parent on a daily basis is heart-wrenching. They are having to slowly say goodbye to their parent during each interaction, and then they grieve as they watch their parent become unrecognizable. The process is painful. Then the “forgotten generation” sees the pain and wants nothing more than to take that pain away, as they deal with their own tumultuous feelings about losing their grandparent.

Feeeling alone with our grief

Ultimately, we will be forced to take on a different role as the “forgotten generation.” We wrestle with this. We see the love being spread to our grandparents and we wouldn’t want them to journey this path alone. We so admire our own parents for taking on that role so sacrificially.

In our lonely dealings of this Alzheimer’s walk, we support our parents and slowly make our way with our own goodbye with our grandparents. A path we must walk alone.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AlzheimersDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.