Carol Mithers’ piece, “Suddenly they’re all gone” in The New York Times is beautifully written (1).  It is about her experience caring for aging relatives and her feelings after their death.  Mithers experienced back-to-back caregiving as aging relatives reached a point where her help was needed.  Much of it took place at a distance.  The exhaustion is relentless as described in this excerpt:

“Maybe there is nothing new to say about the nightmare of shepherding the old through the time that is the prelude to death but not active dying. I knew it would be bad, but you don’t really understand until you’re there, any more than the childless can grasp why a new mother goes three months without shaving her legs.”

Mithers talks about the frantic pace she was keeping – running her own home, raising her child and maintaining her professional career while at the same time managing the homes of three aging relatives.  This involved the management of three more sets of bills and three houses in different cities.  Even with the financial ability to pay for caregivers or care homes, the stress is still felt by the family.  Imagine the additional challenges if financial issues arose?

Families need to have the talk about financial matters.  This cannot wait for signs of the onset of an illness.  By that point it may be too late to focus on the financial issues because the health issues will be a priority.

Mithers also pointed out that even with the fatigue and fear that comes with caregiving there are positive aspects too.  “…your job is tending, and the comfort you bring is simple and physical.”

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