I’m 39 years old and I have a 3 year-old son and an 85 year-old father. I am a full-fledged member of what is called The Sandwich Generation. You know, those of us who had kids a little later in life and are now raising young children while also dealing with aging, often rapidly deteriorating, parents. My dad doesn’t live here but I recently went back east with my children to visit my parents and it was tough to see how much harder everything is for him lately. He’s on more than a dozen different medications for all kinds of serious health problems and he is beginning to have trouble walking. He is beginning to rely heavily on my mom for even the simplest things, like getting up the 4 stairs to the kitchen. I saw the strain on my mom’s face more than once and at one point we discussed how we were actually in somewhat similar situations in terms of the amount of anxiety involved with both raising a toddler and living with an older adult who needs more and more care. It used to be that most people had children when they were younger, often in their 20’s. By the time our parents were getting older and needing more help our kids were grown and out of the house. Not anymore. Now most of my friends have children in preschool or elementary school and also have parents dealing with cancer, heart attacks, dementia, etc. Some of my friends have even had one of their parents move in with them because it got to the point where they couldn’t live alone anymore. (Like our marriages aren’t strained enough with young children, bring on our older parents who also need to be cared for to some degree...I’ve seen it be more than some people can take.)

But there are things you can do, places your parents can go to alleviate some of the stress on the family and to help older parents who may often be home alone, cultivate some companionship among others in similar situations. We often forget it’s not just hard on the family who takes in their parents; it’s hard on the parents too. It’s hard for them to admit they need help; it’s really hard for them to (often reluctantly but out of necessity) leave their own homes. That’s where Bear Creek Respite comes in. They provide day services 7 days a week that include drop-in or daily care with planned activities for those who need supervision or assistance with daily living. Bear Creek also provides short-term respite care with 24-hour professional nursing services for family vacations, weekend getaways and recuperation after hospitalization. Bear Creek Respite Care Center was founded by Marian Steffes, M.N, R.N. and I liked her the moment I met her. She is very warm, smiles often and is incredibly capable. After over 25 years in the nursing profession she has extensive experience in adult health care. She also studied at The Culinary Institute of America and provides home-cooked, well-balanced meals to the folks at Bear Creek and can accommodate special diets as well. The atmosphere at Bear Creek is very welcoming and comfortable. It feels like a quiet home, not a loud, sterile clinical setting at all. I’ve been in a few times and, had my grandmother lived here when she was older, it is definitely a place she would have loved to go and play cards or have lunch with some people instead of being home by herself so much. And I know my mom would feel so much better if my dad could go to a place like Bear Creek Respite for a week so that she could take a quick trip to visit her grandkids. As it is, she is already scrambling to find enough friends to check in on him a few times a day when she travels to see my sister have her first baby (at 36) this fall. She is already so nervous about leaving him. I wish they lived here!

People should really take advantage of such a great facility with such a genuine staff. It could be good for the whole family and take some of the pressure off of those of us helping our young children and older family members through the various stages of their lives. Bear Creek Respite Care Center is located at 1002 East Kagy Blvd. Bozeman, MT 59715. Call with any questions at 406-587-7002.

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