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When caring for a loved one, many caregivers go it alone

Harvard Medical School Health Publication, Heidi Godman

History is repeating itself in my family. My mother has Parkinson’s disease, and my father is her caregiver. Forty years ago, my mom was the caregiver for her own mother, who had advanced Parkinson’s disease and dementia. I didn’t know my grandmother before she became frail and sick, but I knew that her children adored her. They couldn’t bear to place her in a nursing home, so they took six-month turns caring for her in their own homes. Every day, my mother would bathe my grandmother, dress her, feed her, and make sure she took her medications. She had no additional help and no support from my grandmother’s doctors. It was exhausting for my mother, and I felt her anguish. That was in the mid-1970s, when being a caregiver wasn’t a defined role. Now it’s so commonplace that researchers study caregiving. They estimate that 43.5 million people in our country provide in-home, long-term care for older adult family members with a chronic illness. There’s even an entire industry of services tailored to aging in place. But despite the awareness of these roles, and the support services now available, the attention paid to caregivers isn’t much different than when I was a kid. In fact, a report published in JAMA on March 12, 2014, finds that many physicians overlook caregiver burden. To read the complete article, go