“When I was 12, my mother’s 32-year-old sister Emily experienced a berry-aneurysm rupture, which caused a stroke. One day she had a headache that she said felt like being hit with a two-by-four. She went on with life, and then collapsed the next week.
“The executive assistant whose fingers typed so fast that they blurred like the spokes of a bicycle wheel found her clenched right hand no longer at her command. She could not swallow without choking and had trouble focusing her eyes. When she found words, her brain garbled them. She could hum, and we sang with her. But she could no longer care for her young daughter. My family rallied to help her. Through intense rehab, she learned — and we learned — how she could perch on a bedpan, transfer from bed to chair and walk a short distance with a brace that locked her knee into place.
“We were fortunate in many ways. While the nearly one in five Americans who care for dependent adults provide medical and nursing tasks for which they may have little or no training, my mother and her sisters had worked in hospitals, and their experience helped them ask the right questions. After Aunt Emily was released from her rehab center, my grandmother, divorced and in her 50s, retired early from her job as a garment worker to care for her at home.”
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Photo courtesy of Benedicte Muller / The New York Times.