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Sunday, December 7, 2008

For the long and painful process of being angels: Gratitude for family caregivers

As a 75-year-old mother living alone in Boca Raton, Florida, and with my son, a computer research scientist, living in Olympia, Washington, I found it eye-opening to read "More Men Take the Lead Role in Caring for Elderly Parents" [in the New York Times].

Although I am physically fit with no major medical problems, the time will come when I need help.

But men caring for their elderly parents does not necessarily begin when debilitation sets in. My son has been my sole financial caregiver, when I have needed it, for more than 15 years, and if and when I have physical needs, I would guess he'd be there for me then also.

But it was only after reading Peter Nicholson’s perspective in the article that I realized what my son may go through: "As a teacher, he could measure his contribution by the students' progress. But with his mother, he can only watch her decline." And, "there is the lingering sense that whatever they do is not enough."

Perhaps mothers and fathers, before they grow into senility, should write a letter to their prospective caregiver, son or daughter, expressing gratitude for whatever decisions and actions they may, or may not, in the future, take in their long and painful process of being angels.

A thank-you letter in advance might ease the torment of one's beloved offspring.

-Malka Kornblatt

Read a story about tough love by a family caregiver.

Thanks to Malka for the source, the letter she wrote to the New York Times editor, published today.

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