For a dozen years, Larry Bocchiere, 68, didn’t find it especially difficult to care for his wife, Deborah, who struggled with breathing problems. But as her illness took a downward turn, he became overwhelmed by stress.
“I was constantly on guard for any change in her breathing. If she moved during the night, I’d jump up and see if something was wrong,” he said recently in a phone conversation. “It’s the kind of alertness to threat that a combat soldier feels. I don’t think I got a good night’s sleep for five years. I gained 150 pounds.”
As her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worsened and heart failure set in, Deborah was taking 24 medications each day and rushing to the hospital every few weeks for emergency treatments.
Compared to adult children who care for their parents, spouses perform more tasks and assume greater physical and financial burdens when they become caregivers, an analysis of 168 studies shows. Symptoms of depression as well as strains on relationships are more common.
After that night, it was clear that while I was taking care of certain tasks, I had no idea how to really help. Books on caregiving don't really...