On a Tuesday in April, Michelle Walton woke up in Plantation, Florida, at eight. Her back hurt. It’s a pain that’s been omnipresent since the 48-year-old injured it caring for her mother, a woman she says she loves deeply but who is challenging even on the best day…
The dwindling cleaning supplies weigh heavily on Walton’s mind these days, as toilet paper and bleach and sanitizing wipes and rubber gloves–the sorts of things Walton typically needs to keep well-stocked in her house–have rapidly transformed into commodity items. For most purposes, her home is a clinical environment: Since 2014, Walton has acted as the primary caretaker of her sole surviving parent, her mother, whose health has rapidly declined since a catastrophic stroke. With her mother unable to make decisions for herself, Walton has become her health care navigator and her budget balancer. She navigates the infinite bureaucracies of the state programs her mother relies on, schedules physical and speech therapy sessions, and, with the help of a nursing assistant, tends to her needs for most of the day.
This work isn’t paid, and it makes Walton’s mother the absolute center of her world. But she prefers it to shuffling her mom into a state-run facility
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