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Can caring for an ailing loved one kill you? "Yes," say health professionals.  When Baby Boomers care for aging parents, frequently the last person they're thinking about is themselves. This can be deadly. Life (Part 2)  begins with a clip from The Forgetting, the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary on Alzheimer's disease.  Here we get an up-close look at Harry Fuget, sole caregiver for his wife Gladys.  As host Robert Lipsyte explains, there's a tragic lesson to this family's story.

Lipsyte then turns to his panelists for a tour of the realities and dangers of caregiving.  Dr. Esther M. Sternberg, director of the Integrative Neural Immune Program at the N.I.H. and author of The Balance Within: The Science of Connecting Health and Emotions, tells how research has proven that chronic stress compromises our health and memory.  Gail Sheehy, author of the 70s bestseller Passages, speaks candidly of the difficulties of caring for her late husband, the legendary magazine editor Clay Felker. "Caregiving starts as a sprint and turns into a marathon," says Sheehy.  Author Tommy Hays, director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, talks about caring for a parent with Alzheimer's, the experience which inspired his touching novel, The Pleasure Was Mine.

Lipsyte next sits down with the fearless and funny Joy Behar, co-host of The View on ABC.  Why does Joy feel that older comics are better comics?  Behar speaks frankly on late-life fame, plastic surgery-and why her mother "died a blonde."

Finally, Alix Kates Shulman, author of the bestseller Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, offers her thoughts about caring for her high-school sweetheart husband following a freak disabling accident.  The experience has inspired her recent memoir, To Love What Is.

Comments

This article the work of the

This article the work of the author's health. I have always followed this style of writing was sequel. I already saw the youtube video site video about it. also a member of a group I am in the

Thank you to the article author.

Caregivers

My occupation for twenty five years dealt with nursing homes, both from the nursing home side, then from the regulatory side with the state agency monitoring nursing homes and helping them with educational issues.
Two types of families are prominent in my memories: the people who had not been close to their family member and were seeking care as quickly as possible, and the families who had always felt like caring for their loved one(s) was duty, something common especially in the minority community. With limited beds licensed for Alzheimer's patients in most nursing facilities, private pay clients had first chance of getting a bed, as the qualification process for Medicaid often took a month or more. I would often have caregivers for future patients check in weekly to make sure they were doing everything right in their applications for aid. The stress was obvious, but at the same time, there was already a mourning for the time when the day arrived that care would be entrusted to strangers.
Many private pay families used all the resources owned by the patient and then would begin the process of applying for aid. Once aid was established, we often saw less of those relatives.
This is NOT to say that all moneyed clients were cool, detached; but while working in a small town far from any large cities, I saw many Alzheimer's patients who came great distances when facilities were available nearer. Embarrassment seemed to play a part. Again, I have been retired for some time and hope the advent of the Internet and access to information on mental and health problems have helped families dealing with these issues.

A Caregiver reaching 60

My husband, an only child and I cared for my in-laws for the last 10 years of their lives. I was a year-round elementary principal with over a 1000 students and no administrative help in the building. I finally had to give up my principalship, take a few months off, recoup and come back in lesser jobs in my district. My mother-in-law was in moderate to late stage dementia, and my father-in-law a injectable diabetic. The stress of caring for her on him sent him to the hospital, as well, and she died two weeks later. We had dad on a feeding tube in our home while we both worked full time. He died nine months later.
When I had my 30 years in I retired, but I haven't fully recovered. I have no regrets, but I will not do what my in-laws did to us. I will sell my home before I become too frail to care for it. I will not be afraid of moving into housing where I can manage or get assistance without burdening my children unduly. We have both purchased long term care insurance, and hope our kids will have better lives, better health and happier memories of our final years than we did of their paternal grandparents.

Watch Caregiving

What compelling, heartwrenching stories!

Best wishes to all of you in finding personal and community resources to support you in healing and renewing your lives.

Thank you PBS for addressing this important, complicated issue.

I just found out about this

I just found out about this from a post on Facebook. I'm so glad to see that there are forums for people to talk about this but it still needs to be more exposed. I am 37 years old and from the age of 18 until 36, i took care of my mother who had Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I was the only caregiver even though I had a brother and a few family members. My brother struggled with depression and was raising his own family so was not able to contribute his time like i did. Other family could not be bothered and quite honestly, it's probably good that it happened that way. There were a few who helped here and there during the last years but I bore the brunt of it. My mom required 24 hour care . She did not "live" with me but I spent the majority of my time with her at her home and in hospitals. Only caregivers who are there day in and day out know what we go through - driving to appointments, fixing meals, cleaning up meals that have spilled on the floor, bathing, changing diapers,cleaning two houses, laundry, arguing with doctors, arguing with our loved ones, depravation of sleep, being called at 2 am and 5 am and 9 am, and noon and 3 pm and so on,etc.. Ironically, the health care system is seriously lacking when it comes to patients and their caregivers. They think that if someone is being looked after, they don't have to find the answer when the stress is consuming the caregiver. I also raised four children during this time and buried my only brother / only sibling, who committed suicide. I really became the "parent" to my parent. My mom died 1 1/2 years ago and I am nowhere near over it. I look back now and don't know how I did it. I don't regret it one bit. I am honored to have had this "gift".

Thanks for the memories

My parents were fiercely independent, having grown up during the Depression and having helped to care for their own elderly parents, who never fully recovered from the economic woes of the Depression. My mother had a couple of strokes and Alzheimer's that developed over years, beginning about 15 years before she died. My father was determined to care for her for the rest of her life, so to respect his feelings, I had to try to find work nearby, check on them often, and be available for doctor's appointments, all without being intrusive.
Finally in the last six months of their lives I resigned my position in order to come and stay with them so they could be at home with hospice care. It was one of the great privileges of my life to do so, and I don't regret it a bit. However, it took me several years to recover emotionally and physically from the stress of caring for them and of their deaths, five days apart. I also have not recovered financially or professionally.
One penalty we Boomers pay for caring for our families is that when we seek to return to work, no one wants to hire someone in their fifties--and there are -so- many of us out there. Nevertheless, I still would not have done anything differently...and I'm still wondering how others handle this.

There really is an act 3

I wrote the other day about caregiving, apparently I was the only one commenting. My proffesion has been educating, dealing with, and babysitting developmentally disabled teens 14-21, since 1980. The birth of my daughter Molly made it a 24 hour job. Job may sound a little to distant, and calling makes it a mission from god. She was my daughter and my career was my career.
I was an advocate for my daughter. I ended up being incredibly connected with people who provide services. I was the chairperson of a state funded agency, and had a budget that that gave grants to agencies. So who I am I writing. Caregivers need time to shop. Time to mow the lawn, take another kid to the movies. It just would have been nice to have the illusion of a regular life. All caregivers understand this. What has become of my life.
For me I have a 25 year old daughter in med school, a daughter who passed away at the age of six. and a daughter entering second grade. 3 acts

I'm sitting here watching

I'm sitting here watching your show on caregivers. It seemed to focus only on atheimers. These caregivers,, although they don't know when, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The forgotten are younger caregivers of Mulitply disabled children. I took care of my daughter, who couldn't walk talk or see.. She came home from the hospital after 3 weeks in the NICU unit with a G-tube. After 6 weeks I had her drinking from a bottle. My Ex couldn't deal with the sorrow. I fed her every meal she ever ate. By the time she passed away at the age of six, from a seizure in her sleep, she was eating chicken nuggets. There are parents of similar children who outlive their parents, and their whole lives are spent caregiving. You might say I was lucky, but it is such a mixture of feelings. Please don't forget the forgotten caregivers.

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