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photo of a man taking care of an older woman

Discussion: Your Personal Story ... Share your story of caring for an elderly loved one in the last part of their life:   What this involved and how it has affected you and your family.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I cared for my mother in my home the last 3 years of her life, and she died in my home. I am so thankful for the support group I attended prior to moving her from her home in Florida to mine, here in SC. Granted, I had to make changes, such as enlarging doors so her walker, and subsequently, her wheelchair would fit. In addition, I had to change the arrangement of the lavatory in her bathroom, so she could wash her hands and brush her teeth from her wheelchair. Yes, I had to move furniture and store items, due to moving her bedroom suite into my greatroom/den. But it was all worth it. I would not trade the last 3 years of her life with me for anything. In fact, no longer am I afraid of death. Her death was such a beautiful experience.

If anyone on this Board is thinking of caring for an aging parent, I highly suggest they attend whatever support groups are available in their community. The first thing I learned was I had to make time for myself. Otherwise, the caregiver could become ill from the stress of the 24-hour per day job. Secondly, one must learn how to deal with the elderly. I learned not to argue. That can frustrate the elderly.

Donna McCullough
Columbia, South Carolina

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have been responsible for helping 3 aging relatives since 2001. My mother at 88 lives in an assisted living facility with personal companions 16 hours a day because she's unable to do anything except feed herself due to a massive stroke in June, 2001; my aunt at the age of 84 lives in a "board and care" in California and has significant dimensia from a stroke that hit her the month before her sister's in May, 2001; and, my father who lived with my mother in an assisted living facility until he died two years ago of a blood disease at the age of 89. My father had macular degeneration for the last 15 years of his life and had been quite dependent on my mother until her stroke.

I am now 63 years old and, after watching your show, I'm frantic that this caregiving---which I'm not even administering directly---could conceivably go on for another decade. I love my mother and my aunt, but this is not exactly what I had in mind for my retirement years. It's an insane situation!!

Great program, by the way. You raised issues I think about all the time and talk about with way too many other people who are living thru similar circumstances. Too many elderly--not enough family members to care for them. The situation is just not pretty and I so much appreciate your telling it straight up.

Anita Solomon
Louisville, Kentucky

Dear FRONTLINE,

Since I was in grammar school, my Mother cared for her parents. My Mother had several siblings to help and my Grandmother was fairly well until 2 years before her death. She died at home, well cared for in 1976. I am nurse and in my 37 years of practice, I have seen the changes in aging and geriatric care. It is not all changes for the better. We are living longer but living to suffer more. My Mother is now 86 and independent but we have talked about what could be in the future. Although she lives 1500 miles away from me, near her only other child, she has given me power of attorney for health care because as she said, "Your brother would never be able to pull the plug". That, ironically, was a vote of convidence and trust in me on my Mom's part. Will I be able to if the situation presents? As a visiting nurse I have been able to support others when they made the decision to stop treatment. I certainly don't fear death. What will I be able to do when it is time to let go for my Mother? Will I be able to make it easier for my sons to make the decision for me?

June Downing
Northwood, N.H.

Dear FRONTLINE,

My father passed away thirty years ago, when he was sixty five. My mother is now eighty seven. Over the past year, she had a fall which gave her compound fractures, and what has seemed to be either a small stroke or seizure. Quite possibly this is a signal that her deterioration process is beginning. I am quite concerned about her health, well-being, and ability to care for herself. She is still living in her own home, and I don't know for how long it can last. She is unwilling to change her circumstance. It is quite difficult to parent your parent.

christina archer
Toronto, canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

My family and I are helping my dad care for my ailing mother. She is 83 years old and has Parkinson's Disease. It is hard to see her just wasting away. She hardly has a day where she feels good. She takes many different kinds of medicine which are very expensive and don't work very well. She goes to several different doctors but none of them seem to know what to do for her. It is hard on my father also to see her like this. He has to do everything for her. They have been together for 61 years. We feel so helpless.

windsor locks, ct

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posted nov. 21, 2006

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