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Great writing AND he GETS IT!

by Louis on March 15, 2010

Jonathan Rauch, writing in this month’s The Atlantic, gets it about as well as I have seen it got! His article, Letting Go of My Father, is about caring for his dad. His experience is pretty typical. He understands that from the steady stream of sharing conversation with nearly everyone he encounters, all of whom are going through their own version of the same experience.

What does Rauch get that is so special? He understands his own trauma and the impact on his life. He understands his father’s attitude and motivation. Most important Rauch sees that we need a new cultural infrastructure to deal with it all. This piece is right on. I encourage you to read it.

His trauma and the impact on his life: “My professional work all but stopped. Finding doctors for him and getting him to appointments and coordinating escalating medical needs swallowed entire days.”

I have often said, ‘Caregiving is like a three legged race. You are tied at the hip. If one of you goes down in the mud you both go down. And then the deal is off.’ Rauch says it much better, “That was the day I realized he could not cope and I could not cope and, emotionally, he could take me down with him.”

His father’s attitude and motivation: “…I understood that his autonomy was the thread by which his emotional health hung.”

And something powerful my sister and I could never get my father to see about her role with him, “He would not accept assisted living on his own account, but when I told him that he was already in assisted living but that I was the assistance, that I was overwhelmed, underqualified and barely hanging on emotionally:….. he acceded. He was still, after all, my father, and it was still his job, he understood, to care for me.”

From his many conversations with people around him, “This kind of practical wisdom was useful. But why, I began to wonder, did I have to collect it on the street?”
“But the cultural infrastructure is all but non-existent. How can it be that so many people like me are so completely unprepared for what is, after all, one of life’s near certainties?”

Comparing current caregivers to the ‘housewife’s endemic loneliness and boredom’ before feminism he says “….today’s invisible caregivers face their own version of a nameless problem. They are being asked to do alone and out of sight what in fact requires not just private sympathy and toleration but public acknowledgment and proactive assistance.”

Is Rauch’s vision close to my ‘comprehensive and dynamic management system’. I think so. How do we get there? He says, “What we need to do even more than that, though, is for our nameless problem to be plucked out of the realm of the personal and brought into full public view, where help can find us.” Amen.

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