As baby boomers become the largest population of older adults in the United States, the challenges of managing later life long-term care will undoubtedly become more complex. An article on Leadingage.org reports that PBS NewsHour has responded to this issue with a six-part series, “Taking Care.” The first broadcast was May 30th with the subsequent episodes following throughout the year.
The series began by examining the realities of one family coping with caring for their mother with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The mother, Mary Elizabeth Wyant is a retired college professor and professional artist. Mary’s primary caregiver and legal guardian is her daughter Rebecca Wyant. Diagnosed nine years ago, Mary moved in with Rebecca in 2006. Rebecca has watched her mother go from being a “very creative, very outgoing, very gregarious, very much a social butterfly” to mostly incoherent, often accompanied by unpredictable mood swings.
The report included a discussion with Mary’s neurologist, Dr. Jeanette Wendt, who says the majority of families she sees haven’t done any planning to address long-term care and are unprepared when the need arises. The Wyants hadn’t foreseen the need either until Mary’s condition warranted full-time care. Lack of planning often includes the financial aspects of long-term care for a loved one. When Rebecca’s and her mother’s finances were depleted, they qualified for financial assistance which included a small monthly compensation for Rebecca’s time.
PBS NewsHour has related articles and future content planned to further explore the complexities of long-term care and caregiving. Those include how to look for early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, online videos and outcomes of studies addressing the issues affecting older adults and their families. In an online slideshow, “Alzheimer’s and the Artist,” dramatically illustrating the decline of the disease, Mary Wyant’s earlier paintings are shown along with later work after her diagnosis.
Look at your local PBS listings for dates of the upcoming “Taking Care” segments on NewsHour.