Peter Biro spent years “sandwiched,” caring for his twin girls and aging father. Feeling like there weren’t enough resources out there, he started his own blog, thesandwichedman.com.
Caring for You: Welcome, Peter. We’ve been following your blog, and learning so much from your experience. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
You turned to the internet for answers and didn’t find much (especially for male caregivers). We’re in the process of creating a free app specifically designed to support caregivers. If you could go back in time, what would you have wanted to see?
Peter Biro: I think I would have liked more about self-care in the situation and how to give yourself a break. It’s easy to feel like you have to go all the time. And in some ways you do...but it’s also impossible. Caring for an elderly parent while being a parent yourself affects your marriage, siblings, your friendships, your relationship at work. So if I’d known that I would have to manage all of that, it would have been helpful. For a lot of us, it’s a situation we’ve never been in before, and it’s hard to find information about what it’s really like.
Caring for You: We loved this quote from your Today article: “You try to be as much of a perfectionist as you can in a world when perfection is impossible.” Can you say a little more about this?
Peter: It comes from a couple different directions: one is that my father was a perfectionist himself, so there was an added pressure in caring for him. I also think that the stakes are really high in some ways – if you make a mistake it could lead to all kinds of consequences. For most things in life the standard thing is like, “hey, you know, if you have a bad day at work (unless you’re a surgeon) no one died today.” But with caregiving, every once in a while you do something and you’re like, “wow...this is a big deal.”
Caring for You: We’ve heard some people talk about role reversal as a difficult dynamic in caring for a parent – they used to be your primary caregiver, and now you’re taking care of them. Does the phrase “role reversal” fit with your experience?
Peter: I’m not sure it felt like role reversal for me. It felt more like a partnership with my father. I had the veto vote, but I rarely ever used it. I wanted to give him as independent and healthy of a life as he could have. Of course, he was dependent on me. But the only time when I was really making decisions for him was at the very, very end. And those were really difficult decisions to make. I was the one in the hospital room.