A loving son explores the complexities of caring for his disabled mother over the course of a decade in this debut memoir and caregiver’s guide.
In 2005, Roche was a divorced father with three adolescent children when his 76-year-old mother, Charlotte, moved in with him. She was partially paralyzed by a series of strokes and needed help with most basic tasks of self-care. As he notes in this book, he took on the role of caregiver willingly. He was a physical therapist by profession, so he was the logical choice among his family members to provide for his disabled parent. He was also motivated by a strong sense of love and gratitude for his mother’s hard work and sacrifice throughout his childhood. She raised three children with little help from her alcoholic husband, he writes, and suffered her first stroke when he was still a toddler. As an adult, he was thrilled to be able to offer his home when she needed his help. However, within a couple of years, he says, his filial devotion began to be overshadowed by impatience, irritation, and a sense of his own life disappearing under the staggering load of responsibility. Then, just five years after Charlotte’s arrival, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which made life harder for both mother and son. Overall, Roche’s narrative is personal and poignant as he describes his mother’s strength and resilience as well as the disquieting milestones of her decline. Along the way, he presents a vivid portrait of the ravages of age and illness, and he’s similarly unsparing in his dissection of his own failings as a caregiver. Excerpts from the journal he kept at the end of Charlotte’s life are especially forceful in conveying the excruciating mix of love, sorrow, and guilt that characterized his last years with his mother, who died in 2015. The last section of the work is a heartfelt guide for caregivers with advice that effectively draws on his own experiences as well as a list of additional resources.
A warm, candid examination of what it means to provide care for a loved one at the end of life.