The numbers are mind-boggling: According to a 2015 report issued by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 39.8 million Americans—the lion’s share of them female—are providing unpaid care for someone aged 50 or older. Another two million people—again, most of them women—work as paid in-home health aides, administering medication, cooking, shopping, and providing oversight and companionship for adults needing assistance.
Writer Elayne Clift’s latest anthology, Take Care: tales, tips and love from women caregivers (June 2017, braughlerbooks.com) provides a forum for caregivers to address what it means for them—as daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, friends, wives, or grandchildren—to tend to elders and the sick. For most, it’s a labor of love, and as they outline both the joys and hardships of providing care, they are, for the most part, the epitome of grace under pressure. But that’s not to say that the job is easy.
Take Care is a slim volume—28 brief essays and poems—and while it touches numerous aspects of caregiving, it is not comprehensive. Instead, it movingly zeroes in on what it means to be there for someone else, whether for the long haul or for a shorter stint. Harvard professor Paula J. Caplan, calls the collection “a sorely needed jewel that helps and heals.”
Clift spoke to Eleanor J. Bader by telephone a few weeks ago, from her Vermont home.