In 2015, Lorri Smalls, 44, a writer and seller on eBay, moved from South Carolina — where she cared for her mother, who has since died from ovarian cancer — to New Jersey to live with her Aunt Terri, now 74. Her aunt has dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and COPD, and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a building for seniors.
I try to do a little bit of everything: I help her stay up to date with her doctors’ visits and her medications. I keep her financial affairs in order and tie up loose ends as far as what bills are to be paid. I helped with drafting her will. I help with the groceries, run miscellaneous errands, and keep the household running smoothly. I try not to take over unless there’s a reason for me to do so, but she’s in the first stage of dementia so her memory’s not so good. Glitches keep occurring, and sometimes I have to backtrack and make sure that everything that should have been taken care of has been.
My aunt can be left alone for periods of time. But she has a lot of health problems and she has scoliosis so I have to make sure she doesn’t fall when she’s walking.
All I want to do is help her and I’m doing the best I can. But after two years, I’m starting to feel burned out. My aunt and I get along all right but at times it’s strained because it’s a small apartment and we’re together a lot. Knowing that I’m doing what I can to help her makes me feel good, but I’d like to have more work opportunities and more of a life of my own — so it’s been a bittersweet experience. Eventually, I'll be moving on, and hopefully she can be placed in a nursing facility to receive round-the-clock care.
— As told to Stacey Colino