- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ellen Mackey is a self-described soccer mom who has put 120,000 miles on her minivan ferrying four children to four different schools, sports practices, Boy Scouts, chorus and dance classes. Now she is ferrying a fifth passenger: her mother.

Mrs. Mackey, who lives in Maryland, is a “mom in the middle,” one of a growing number of baby boomers who find themselves at midlife caring for both their offspring and their parents at the same time.

Mrs. Mackey’s children range in age from 5 to 15. She is in her 40s and is the primary caregiver for her 70-year-old mother, who has survived three bouts with lung cancer. The mother also recently received foot surgery that landed her in a wheelchair, but she can walk with the aid of a walker.

“It’s very demanding, very stressful, especially as parents get older and have health issues,” Mrs. Mackey said. “My mother has to take 25 pills a day — and [there are] some cognitive issues. My mother moved here from Long Island, where she had lived all her life, and lives in senior housing, so she doesn’t have the responsibility of taking care of the lawn, garden, et cetera.”

Caring for her mother in her own house following the foot surgery was difficult, and it has taken a toll on the family, but mostly on Mrs. Mackey herself.

“I was tied up caring for my mother and had to give many of the household chores to my children,” she said. “There are conflicts.”

More than four out of 10 adults in the United States — mostly women — between the ages of 45 and 55 are caring for a child and an older adult, usually a parent. Of those caregivers, 64 percent are employed full time or part time, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

It was not always like this.

“It used to be that women stayed at home and cared for children, then the woman would care for her ailing spouse, and when he died, she would move in with one of her children,” said Gail Hunt, president of the National Alliance for Caregiving, a Washington-based coalition.

In the past, most women had children in their 20s, and often their children would be grown by the time a parent needed assistance.

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