Author Archives: Sarah Szanton

The Public Health Crisis that Overwhelms Families: One Family's Caregiving Story

Nov 29, 2011, 1:00 PM, Posted by Sarah Szanton

By Sarah L. Szanton, PhD, CRNP, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar


In my years as a nurse practitioner providing house calls to homebound older adults and their families, some of the most poignant experiences I have had are with the families of completely paralyzed older adults.


In one particular family, the “successful” children had moved up and out of the under resourced, chaotic neighborhood in which the family had lived for decades. The remaining child, a 50-year-old woman, was taking care of their mother who had been completely paralyzed by a stroke years earlier. This caregiver told me she had never completely gotten her life together, reported that she had had issues with substance abuse. She said her siblings held jobs; one was a teacher and the other an employee at the local Blue Cross Insurance Company.

She clearly felt deserted by them, and they likely felt guilty that they were doing less than their sister – but also proud that they had launched themselves.

The care the grown child provided for her mother was outstanding. This was a woman who was 75 and completely bedbound, incontinent, with no ability to move on her own. Yet she had no bedsores, her skin was beautifully moisturized and the daughter spent time with her throughout the day, talking to her and asking her questions, even though I never discerned any emotion or response from the mother.

When I asked the daughter about how hard it was and how she got through the hard times, she replied that her mother had given her life and “raised her up.” Now, she said, it was her turn to take care of her mother.

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