The Caregiver’s Dilemma


In a September 29, 2011 posting, “The New Old Age” (The New York Times blog) does it again.  I have consistently said this is the best blog on aging, even when I disagree with it.  The article is called “The Uncertain Life,” which can be applied as much to the caregiver’s as to the care receiver’s.

The specific issue is whether the caregiver’s mother, suffering from vascular dementia at the age of 92, should start taking Aricept (normally prescribed for Alzheimer’s).  The caregiver wants her mother to decide, but it is a difficult decision for the dementia patient.  The caregiver is worried about side effects, as well as making sure her mother takes the medicine regularly, on time.

While the article is very well written and useful on this specific topic – the mother ultimately stops taking Aricept – the real message is the ambiguity and uncertainty faced by both sufferers of dementia and the people caregivers who support them.  That ambiguity and uncertainty is really an every day problem that will not go away.

There are issues of ethics, knowledge, lack of knowledge, individual responsibility, respect, fear and more which enter into the the caregiver’s every day dilemmas.  Unfortunately, there is no final grade at the end of the class that tells the caregiver, whether family or professional, how she / he did.  Real life is like that.

To all family caregivers – daughters, sons, spouses, in-laws, … — and all professionals, especially those who work for Support For Home, I admire your courage and strength, working through those dilemmas, those ambiguities, every single day.

Best wishes, Bert

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