Search & Replace S03E09: Christy Byrne Yates

Christy Byrne Yates shares her experience of being in the sandwich generation, caring for both her children and aging parents. She initially had a great life with her husband and children, supported by her parents, who lived nearby. However, she began to notice her parents needed more help and realized they were experiencing dementia. As she navigated the challenges of caregiving, she learned the importance of self-care, asking for help, and setting boundaries. Find out how Christy found the need to lead with love and compassion in both caregiving and parenting on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:10] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if the overwhelming grief of losing a loved one arrives before they’re gone, even while you’re caring for them? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.

Christy Byrne Yates started her career as a writer before becoming a special education teacher, and later a school psychologist. And with her young and growing family, she described a pretty nice life. 

[00:00:37] Christy Byrne Yates: So I found myself raising my kids with my husband. We were having a great time. It was, you know, there were the normal struggles. And let me tell you, there were struggles. But we both worked full-time. 

My parents lived about five, ten minutes up the road from us, and we’re in the Sacramento, California area and we just, we had a great relationship with them. And they were great when we were not making very much money, they were our free babysitters, you know, and they had a great relationship with my kids and any family thing. You know, they were always involved and so it was a wonderful time for us.

[00:01:12] Joe Taylor Jr.: Such a wonderful time, Christy tells us, that she didn’t even observe the beginning of the problems her family was about to endure. 

[00:01:20] Christy Byrne Yates: And then we started to notice, my kids are tween and teen at that time, and I’m noticing my mom and dad need a lot more help. It started with little things. You know, the funny things you notice, like they can’t really understand cell phones, you know, and cable, oh, it’s not working again Chris. All kinds of things and we’re doing more and more help for them and I’m starting to realize, they’re really starting to get older and we’re having to step in a lot more. 

And I will tell you, at the time I was working full-time as a school psychologist, so I am out there doing things with kids with disabilities and, you know, pretty well versed in a lot of these cognitive processes. But I was in big denial about my mother’s memory. And people were coming to me, relatives, saying Christy your mom has some problems. I’m like, no, no she’s just anxious about my dad. And my dad, we knew he had problems. He’d had a stroke many years before he was starting to fade. Denial only lasts for so long.

Long story short, my parents both ended up with some form of dementia. My dad had vascular dementia, as that kind of developed sometimes from stroke. And then my mother had Alzheimer’s and she was diagnosed when she was late seventies. So I just had to, kind of, wrap myself around. I’m the one that’s here. My sister lives in Montana, my brother’s in Michigan. It was gonna be me, and I was delighted to do that for them, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. 

[00:02:48] Joe Taylor Jr.: Christy found herself in the sandwich generation. That term dates back to a book from the early eighties, and it describes the nearly half of Americans who will find themselves, at some point, both raising children and caring for elderly relatives, especially parents. 

[00:03:05] Christy Byrne Yates: So a couple things changed right away. There wasn’t enough of me to go around, but I was trying for the longest time to do it. I was spreading myself real thin and where that kind of showed up for me and I finally had awareness is when I started paying attention to my body. I realized I need to breathe. I need to breathe, I need to open up a little bit more. 

And then awareness of that for me was learning how to ask for help. My husband and my kids, they stepped up and were really wonderful and helped my parents a lot when I was not able to do that.

My parents chose to do an assisted living plan when the time was ready. So I had to find those resources in the community that would help me know when it was time. 

[00:03:48] Joe Taylor Jr.: As Christy edged closer to those critical decisions for her parents, she found her experience forming her approach to raising her children.

[00:03:56] Christy Byrne Yates: I remember a very specific dinner we were having, and I was just annoyed. I was annoyed that my dad couldn’t hold his fork well anymore. I was annoyed that he couldn’t really feed himself. Everything was bothering me. And I looked up and I see my son looking at me and he just mouths the words, you are not being nice Mom.

And I thought, oh my gosh. And instead of being angry at my son, I was like he’s right. I’m being a jerk. So dinner ends, we take my parents back to their assisted living and I just fell apart. I became aware that I was already grieving the loss of my parents and they were still here with me. They were still living. But they were fading away and they were needing more than I ever thought they would need from me. 

But I also realized that I was role modeling not great stuff to my kids. And what am I showing them about compassion, about who they are as human beings? This isn’t the takeaway I want them to get. You know, we talked as a family, and I just said, I’m really sad. I’m really sad about Grandma and Grandpa. It’s hard for me to see this. 

I took ownership of my behavior and really tried to show up with a lot more patience. And slow down. I started to say no to more things. It is important to take care of yourself so that when you are in those difficult times where you’re filled with some of this, what’s called anticipatory grief. Right? You have the resources emotionally to do that. 

[00:05:20] Joe Taylor Jr.: It’s that anticipatory grief, experiencing the loss of the loved ones you knew, even though they’re not quite gone, that overwhelms so many adults in the sandwich generation. Christy adjusted her career path. One more time to reflect everything she’s learned as a coach for other members of the sandwich generation at the start of their own caregiving journeys.

[00:05:42] Christy Byrne Yates: The first thing I wanna say is really, really pay attention to your body and your needs right now. And that might be a skill you need to develop. You can develop that skill. That’s really important. You have to be in touch with what’s happening for you right now, your emotion. They’re all legitimate. 

And second, build that team. Find people before you need them, start having conversations. You’re not the only one going through this, but you know, it might feel like it. But let people know what’s happening. 

I think the most important thing is to lead with love. You lean into the love you have for your kids. So if you’re in a sandwich generation situation, lean into the love you have for your kids and how you treat your parents and what you do for them is what you’re leading to, how you’re teaching your kids. If you don’t have kids, lean into the love you have for yourself and find that. Because when you lead with love and you lean into that, I think other things open up and lead you to the right path for yourself. 

[00:06:40] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s mental health professional Christie Byrne Yates. 

We’ve got links to her work in our show notes and on our website at 

Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith and Podcast Taxi Executive Producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex ReFire I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. 

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. 

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. 

Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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