Caring for Papa

When their grandfather’s health declined, Christina and her brother, Michael, stepped in to care for their “Papa.” Together they did everything he needed to stay at home, where he wanted to be. Christina shared: “Most of us don’t consider ourselves formal caregivers; we are just taking care of our family. But what we did know is that taking care of Papa was hard, stressful and confusing. We didn’t know what services were available or how to screen providers. And we …

A Family Caregiver Thanksgiving Story: In Rehab

My pop was fond of responding to any “How are you?” inquiry like this: “I’ve never been better in my life!” My mom shared her wisdom when sending me off to grade school: “Elaine, never let anyone think you aren’t having the best day of your life!” I was raised with the power of positive thinking. And through the years, I was consistently inspired by the spirit, humor and resilience my parents demonstrated throughout a lifetime of challenges. One time, …

Supporting Veterans and Family Caregivers at Home

Several months ago,  I met Doug and Michelle Mercer of McAlester, Okla. Doug had been home from Iraq for only four days when he suffered debilitating injuries in a serious motorcycle accident. Three and a half years later, he is still recovering brain function, he uses a wheelchair and he needs help 24/7. Following a short stint in rehab, Doug came home with his wife, Michelle, as his caregiver. Without any instruction, she had to perform complicated medical tasks to help …

When Mom’s a Republican and Pop’s a Democrat

My mom was born in the same year that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution — giving women the right to vote — was ratified. She was a daughter of immigrant parents, who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity. And my mom relished her right to vote. I have very early memories of walking with my mom, pop, brother and sister blocks to our polling place located at Outwater Park. It was a family tradition. I remember …

Caregiving Takes a Team

Ah — autumn! The crisp cool weather, the colorful leaves … and the smell of football is in the air. This time of year I’m reminded of the days of my youth when I spent countless hours watching my pop and brother practicing football in the backyard, watching high school games my brother starred in, and watching our beloved Buffalo Bills on TV. At a very young age, I was raised to be a football fan. In the years between …

How One Community Supports Its Hidden Heroes, Family Caregivers

As I drove from Billings, Mont., to Sheridan, Wyo., I saw a sign for “Buffalo 36 miles.” Then it occurred to me that something felt strangely familiar. I grew up in a town called Lockport, about 29 miles from Buffalo, N.Y. So I researched a bit more. Sheridan has a population of 17,800; 20,000 live in Lockport. Sheridan gets about 72 inches of snow a year; Lockport posts a competitive 69 inches. And though my hometown doesn’t have mountain ranges, …