Natasha Lazartes, therapist, Brooklyn, is 39 years old. She had to care for her father, who passed from cancer in 2019; her mother, who passed in November 2021 from cancer; and since her passing she has inherited the care of her 97-year-old grandmother, who has been diagnosed with moderate dementia and is considered high risk to be left home alone. Natasha applied for Medicaid long-term care to receive a home health aide in early November 2021. Her grandmother finally got a home health aide in January 2022, but it has been a nightmare. They are so desperate to hire workers that they will take anyone. Her grandmother was left without an aide on many random days with late-notice telephone calls or text messages from the aide needing the day off and the agencies not able to find a replacement in time. Natasha has changed agencies multiple times. Her husband has been a great support the entire time. They installed security cameras in their apartment to see how she is doing while they are at work. The situation is emotionally and physically draining. Natasha believes the health care system for the elderly is neglected, broken, and inadequate to meet any demands, even the basic needs.
Robert Ingenito, public information officer in Mamaroneck, N.Y., is 44 years old. His father, who is now 93, had Robert late in life, at age 49. Robert’s mother died from cancer when he was 19. Robert has a wife and a 6-year-old daughter, and for the past five years his dad has lived with them. Robert works about 20 hours a week to be able to do something other than being his father’s caregiver. His level of care was getting to the point of something he could not sustain. Recently, Robert made the extremely difficult decision to move his dad into an assisted-living facility. Robert was happy with the level of care his dad was getting, but when he signed the lease, he felt like he was breaking his promise to his late mother.
Karina Ortega, caregiver, Dallas, is 43 years old. Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in March 2020, but even before then, Karina knew something was wrong. She is no longer working at all and this has taken a toll on her life. Karina has a younger brother and an older sister, but she is the one who has always taken care of her parents. Karina struggles with the idea of not being able to care for her mother if she gets worse, as putting her in a home is frowned upon in their culture. Karina feels that she cannot give up on her mom because she needs her.
Gay Glenn, an actor from Topeka, Kan., is 61 years old. It was costing her $8,000 out of pocket to have people come into her mom’s house to help her, and that was only for eight hours a day. Her mother fell and had to be in a nursing home, and the expenses were draining all of her savings and assets. It was an awful process for Gay, both personally and financially.
Bryan Ness, a 62-year-old biology professor from Angwin, Calif., had planned for his mother to live with him, but due to high costs for home care, he had to place her in an assisted-living facility. Bryan exhausted almost all his retirement savings and got help from friends and family to cover the costs.
Stacey Wheeler, a retired individual from Greenville, S.C., reveals the financial struggles associated with caring for an elderly parent who was in assisted living. She believes no one is getting paid enough to provide adequate care and wishes she had known that no one was going to help her.
These are the stories of lifelong caregivers who have had to make difficult decisions and sacrifices to ensure the well-being of their elderly loved ones. Each story highlights the financial, emotional, and physical toll of caring for an aging family member and the challenges associated with finding suitable care options within the current healthcare system.