• Sarah Whitebloom

If care professionals see me, they won't help my parents...an everyday dilemma for the sandwich

Mandy, not her real name, says she cannot risk going six miles to make sure her octogenarian parents are all right - even though she knows they are not. She cannot chance being seen.

Mandy ruefully says her parents are like new-born babies completely unable to look after themselves. They cannot feed themselves, care for themselves and are at high risk of falling over or out of bed. One of them doesn't even know who the other one is and certainly couldn't use the telephone to call for help.

Older people can be vulnerable like newborns

So why on Earth doesn't she just go round to see them? Who would abandon a baby to this fate? Who would do this to their elderly parents?

Mandy is not a monster, though. But, she feels, she has effectively to abandon her ailing mother and father if they are going to get the help they need and to which they are entitled - from social services, the local medical establishment, care professionals...anyone.

'As soon as I appear, they would all down tools,' said Mandy. 'If they think there is someone to look after them, they would do nothing.'

Mandy has spent a great deal of time on the telephone over the last few months, trying to organise proper help for her parents - to no avail - and all the while they have been deteriorating. Now they are in crisis. It need never have got to this state, Mandy believes. It is a situation entirely of the local 'caring' professionals making. It has turned into a game of poker, with the ailing parents in the middle. Who will crack first? Meanwhile, her parents are at risk.

They think it will be Mandy, but she is resolute - her parents are entitled to help and support. It is a high stakes game. Should she fold, should she raise them? Politicians argue that families ought to care for their older members, but what are the implications of that for the sandwich generation? And should local authorities and health professionals evade their responsibilities by leaning on inexperienced family members with no training or skills.

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