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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN / Forty Acres and a Caregiver / Editorial List

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Gary Barg

Forty Acres and a Caregiver

I’m on the return flight from Dallas, Texas, where I spent a few amazing days with a bevy of my favorite folks. The event was the 39th Annual N4A Conference (National Association of Area Agencies on Aging). As usual, I have notebooks filled with advice, best practices and wisdom that I will indeed share in future emails.

The funny thing is that the first conversation I would like to have after this whirlwind week has nothing to do with the event. Allow me to explain. I stayed at a hotel, about a mile from the event, which had a service that would shuttle me to the conference hotel every day. On my second day, Joe, who was my shuttle driver, asked what event I was attending. (The conference bag, rumpled suit and bleary eyes gave me away.) I explained that I was here with aging and disability professionals from around the nation and he said, “Are you talking about the Area Agency on Aging?” I asked how he knew of the AAAs and he told me a story about his parents who both had passed away within the past two years.

Joe is the youngest of eight children from a Texas border town about 500 miles away from Dallas. When both of his parents took ill quite a few years ago, his youngest sister, Jenny, stepped up to become their primary caregiver. As I hardly need to explain, this was a major task that she undertook with love and a whole lot of her time and energy. At some point a few years before their parents passed, one of their other siblings found out about the local Area Agency on Aging. Joe told me it had been an absolute lifesaver for his sister, offering respite, support and time away for his parents and sister.

Now, for the interesting part. His entire clan of eight siblings had completely supported their sister, with each taking on separate responsibilities according to their own strengths. They even provided for her financially while she was caregiving. Their parents owned 40 acres of land where the family home was located, and which the siblings all agreed would go to Jenny.

Before you throw sticks at me saying this was not a typical family caregiving scenario, I have to tell you, I am the first in line to understand that.

As we parted ways that night, I asked Joe for the family secret to working together so well. He said that his folks drilled into Joe and his siblings one simple family motto: “Negativity is not an option.”

If only I could bottle that particular Texas brew.

Gary Barg

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