How I Learned to Be a Better Doctor From My Wife’s Struggle With Alzheimer’s
Doctor with stethoscope

Through her long illness, I was Joan’s primary family-carer. I had devoted my professional life as a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist to studying, teaching and practicing care for chronic conditions, including dementia. I should have been able to handle this outburst, just as I had to respond to all the other consequences of Joan’s Alzheimer’s disease, from agitation and memory loss to depression and escalating disability. But this episode left me feeling broken and helpless. I struggled through this episode, like so many others, and endured a decade of care, driven on by my abiding love for Joan and by her own heroic efforts to keep our relationship alive and hold our family together. What I came to realize over the course of that terrible decade was that the humbling work of care rewarded me even as it sustained Joan. To be present and focused every day, every hour, every minute, gave me a central purpose in living. It was my emotional and moral education.

I have come to understand care through this experience as well as those that reflect my half century as a health care practitioner, educator and researcher. And what I have come to see, as if a veil of ignorance had been stripped away from my eyes, is that care and caregiving are undergoing a profound crisis, a crisis that can be understood as an early sign of a dangerous yet near universal transformation in human experience and social institutions. What is most human—our vulnerability, our decency, indeed our very souls—is under great threat.

Read more in Time Magazine.

This is an external article from our library

Everyone is talking about caregiving, but it can still be difficult to find meaningful information and real stories that go deep. We read (and listen to and watch and look at) the best content about caregiving and bring you a curated selection.

Have a great story about care work? Use our contact form to submit it to us so we can share it with the community!

Related Articles

Widow’s Peak

Widow’s Peak

She said she had something to tell me but that she was afraid. I reached for her trembling hand, telling her sweetly, naïvely, that it would be...

Sex and disability

Sex and disability

Scarleteen has a fantastic collection of articles on sex and disability. While I typically only share resources about care work or directed to the...

Popular categories

Finances
Burnout
After Caregiving
Housing
Relationships
Finding Meaning
Planning
Dying
Finding Support
Work
Grief

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts

0 Comments

Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.