I have always considered myself strong and quite capable of taking care of myself, but life has a way of swatting our perceptions away. I came to this conclusion when I was stricken with Covid-19—despite being fully vaccinated— a broken leg that rendered me unable to walk for two months, and an eye infection that affected my vision. (No, I never do anything halfway.)
I admit that I rarely thought of caregivers before, but as I stared up from my bed—broken and sick— at the face of my masked sweetie pie, I was struck by my utter helplessness. In the beginning, I was too sick to consider how much work I’d become. Nor did it register that I wasn’t the only person in Ryan’s care. His prime caretaking responsibility is his 85-year-old mom who is losing her eyesight and suffers from dementia.
So, Ry was now faced with two of us. When the Covid started to ease, I jokingly called Ryan Ethan Frome, the title character in the 1911 novel by American author Edith Wharton. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, poor Ethan, who has a disabled shrew of a wife, falls in love with a pretty young woman. Then, with no way out, they decide to commit suicide together, however the plan goes awry. They both live, but the woman becomes disabled, so Ethan now has two sickly people to care for.
According to the AARP, “Every day, some 48 million Americans help parents, spouses and other loved ones with medical care, meals, bathing, dressing, chores and much more. They do it out of love, not for pay.”
When I was well enough to notice, I realized the enormous pressure Ryan faced. He had to feed his mother, monitor her medications, and tend to grocery shopping and medical appointments, as well as weather her constant confusion and memory issues. Then he had to come to my house and care for all my needs, as well.
As you can imagine, caregivers are suffering. “Family caregivers now encompass more than one in five Americans,” says the research series Caregiving in the US. “The study also reveals that family caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago.” Caregivers spend a whopping 13 days each month “on tasks such as shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and giving medication.”
These constant demands force caregivers to push their own lives and needs aside, often causing burnout. Between 40 to 70% of caregivers are said to suffer from depression, with those attending to patients with cognitive decline being the most likely to be effected. Also, chronic illnesses like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune system disorders can worsen.
What can caregivers do? First, ask for help, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. There are agencies all over the country that offer services to caregivers that can help lighten the load, so check the Internet and your insurance company to see what’s available. Do the best you can, but forgive yourself when days don’t go as planned. And carve out some time out for yourself.
Every Tuesday, Ryan goes to lunch with his long-time buddies. The gathering is his one time of respite during the week when most of his efforts revolve around me and his mom. He always seems more energized when he returns from these get-togthers and happily tells me what’s new with the boys.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, so I’d like to give a big shoutout to those who shoulder the responsibilities for others. Caregiving is an exhausting, often overlooked effort. So thank you to all the folks who support those of us in need.
And, of course, I’m especially grateful for Ryan who jumped in with both feet when my health failed, never getting angry, and doing his best to cheer me up when I was down.
Thank you, Ry. I love you!
Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.
Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense
September 13, 2021
Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.
One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.
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