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Addressing the Personal Sacrifices of Family Caregivers

AARP Wisconsin lobbies for state income tax credit to help people like Sherrie Palm

Sherrie Palm discusses their prescriptions with her parents, Joan & Phil Kastner, in their home in Mauston, Wisconsin, on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. Photo by Ackerman + Gruber@ackermangruberSherrie Palm with her parents, Joan & Phil Kastner, at their home in

Ackerman + Gruber

Sherrie Palm, right, sits with her parents.

En español | It is incredibly frustrating that at my mature age, work-life conflicts are increasingly difficult to navigate.

I'm 65 and, finally, the cause I've been working on for years — women's pelvic health — is on the radar of national policymakers. But as my professional life is cresting, so are the complications of caring for my aging parents.

My father, who's 90, and mother, who's 85, insist on staying on their farm, which is a three-hour drive from my home.

I'm 12 years into caring for them. I'm making biweekly trips throughout the year. That's a lot of miles.

Every time I climb into my tired old Subaru, which has 300,000 miles on it, I'm afraid my car will fall apart while on the road to get to my parents’ farm.

Along with all my commuting expenses, the time factor is incredibly frustrating. It is imperative that I take time off from the nonprofit where I work in order to help them.

AARP Wisconsin is right to push for a state income tax credit to help offset the out-of-pocket expense of family caregiving and, more importantly, to shine a light on caregiving difficulties. I rely on the state office to advocate for me with lawmakers and policymakers.

Even while I'm traveling for work, I'm trying to coordinate care for my parents.

Both have dementia. Laundry piles up. They don't eat healthy meals. Their refrigerator is filled with food well past its expiration date. My parents no longer understand how to properly take their medicines.

We had a close call when a visiting nurse mixed up their medications. She realized her error after she left, but only called my parents to correct it. Of course, my parents were confused. No one called me or any other relative.

Luckily, a family member figured out that the pills were set up wrong, but not before my father missed four days of blood thinners and was experiencing multiple significant symptoms.

I'm thankful that siblings, nieces and nephews are helping, too. But my parents need more.

—As told to Joanne Cleaver

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