Most of us plan or expect to graduate from high school, college, and maybe even graduate school, then focus on a career. In addition, we usually plan on having a family. But what is often left out of our life goals is caring for an elderly or chronically ill family member. It’s a role that can sneak up on us and become more than we expect.
About 23% of American households are caring for someone over the age of 50 (1). The number of employed caregivers in the country is expected to increase over the next 10 years to between 11 and 15.6 million (2). About one-fifth of caregivers give up work temporarily or permanently (3). I am on the advisory board of a magazine for caregivers called Caring Today Magazine and write articles in support of caregivers. www.caringtoday.com I offer caregiver support groups for companies as well as counseling and referral services to caregivers.
My Caregiver Story
My mother, Mary Malott, developed Alzhiemer’s disease in her early 60’s. Because she was relatively young to show the symptoms, my family and I were confused at first. Some thought she was experiencing confusion and memory problems because of depression. Eventually her doctor did tests and said she had Alzheimer’s disease. I took mom to the NYU Silverstein Aging and Dementia Research Center. After their lengthy and thorough testing they also concluded that she had Alzheimer’s. At the early stage I used the Alzheimer’s Association for information and support. We also contacted an eldercare attorney, Peter Strauss Esq., who was very helpful.
Mary Malott was an artist all her life. Over the years, she had her works in many group and some individual art shows. She continued to paint in the early stage of the disease but after a while, she would stretch a canvas, get her paints ready but never start the painting. This went on for about a year. Then, one day I was at her loft in SoHo and my daughters were using crayons to draw pictures. My mother sat down with them and did a drawing of one of my daughters. It was different from her other work; she used blue for the hair and shaped the eyes differently. We were very excited by this and encouraged her to continue to do more. Our daughter, Eve, still remembers this day and wrote, “I often revisit the memory of us sitting on the floor in her loft. It is now crystalized in my mind as an almost surreal realization of destiny; a gift from one generation to the next. I look back on this moment as a testament to the strength of a creative passion we share.” Here is the link to Eve’s essay which is on her website along with her art
On January 21, 2008, Mary died after an 18 year long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Click on Mary Myart Malott to read her colorful life story of challenge and change in efforts to live the authentic artist life. Pictures of Mary’s art can be found on Barbara McIntyre’s website, click on http://www.bmcintyrephoto.com/Art/Mary-Myart-Malott-Memorium/4262662_DFbnvw#!i=249646158&k=L7iQf
Another Caregiver Story
In January of 2010, I embarked on another caregiver experience with my father. My dad, Francis McIntyre, M.D., had a back operation in January, and then many complications afterwards. He was in the hospital until he died on April 3 of multiple organ failure. Caring for my father was very different than caring for my mother. I lived close to my mother and could see her easily and the caregiving lasted for almost 18 years. My father lived in Austin, Texas where I grew up and I was involved from January until he passed in April. In all, I took 8 trips over about ten weeks to Austin to see him in the hospital and help provide care for him. Along with my sisters, Barbara and Sylvia, and husband Michael, we helped in ways the hospital couldn’t such as giving massages and oral care. Most importantly, we shared memories, sang his favorite songs, read him articles, and let him know how much we appreciated his kindness, his sense of adventure, optimism, and gratitude. With help from my sisters, Barbara, and Sylvia, I wrote an obituary to show his amazing life from growing up in Marshall, Indiana to becoming a navigator in WWII as well as a beloved father and family doctor for 48 years.
(1) 1997 study by National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP
(2) 1999 The MetLife Juggling Act Study
(3) 1997 study by National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP
Call me for a free phone consultation or text me to set up an appointment, 917-757-6542.
Two convenient offices, both near all major subway lines.
Midtown, near Grand Central: 280 Madison Avenue, Suite 1011, New York, NY, 10016
Brooklyn Heights: 26 Court Street, Suite 610, office #2, Brooklyn Heights, NY, 11242