Eleanor is a Colorado native who grew up in a small farming community outside Denver. Her career in state and local government spanned almost 40 years during which time she earned both a Bachelor and Master’s degree from Regis University. She retired to provide full-time care to her mother after she broke her hip at age 93. Armed with faith, humor and love she navigated being a sole caregiver until her mother’s death at age 102 in 2017. One Caregiver’s Journey, a memoir of her caregiving experience, was published in 2019. In 2021 she published Generations of Good Food, a collection of 200 recipes which span six generations of family. Today she lives in a western suburb of Denver and enjoys an active lifestyle that includes baking, cooking, gardening, physical activities and spending time with family and friends.
“There are times when the isolation of being a caregiver sends you outdoors and makes you think you’ve gone bonkers.”
After a forty-year career with state and county government in Colorado, author Gaccetta found herself in the unenviable position of providing round-the-clock care to her 92-year-old mother, twenty-four hours a day. This journey lasted for the final nine and a half years of her mother’s life. The stories so intimately shared in this book serve not only as a personal documentation of that decade of her caregiving experiences but also as an extremely comprehensive guide for anyone who finds themselves new to the role of primary, full-time caregiver.
The author takes the reader through detailed considerations of a plethora of matters to be taken into account. Among these are documentation (medication lists, power of attorney plans), handicap placards (if applicable), doctor and all medical visits, and the like. Of special consideration is honest communication and maintaining a healthy sense of humor. Further, Gaccetta discusses diversions (including trusted fallback people who can lighten the load from time to time), germs and keeping the house clean and disinfected (Mr. Clean and Mr. Clorox quickly became two of her best friends, she jokes), discouraging visitors when they are under the weather, and safety in and around the home.
Confronted with an ever-aging population, more and more Americans find themselves taking care of the very individual(s) who once were wholly responsible for taking care of them. “At some point in their journey every caregiver will ask themselves, ‘When did I go from being the adult child to the parent?'” writes Gaccetta. In this respect, the author’s candid and practical, hands-on advice is certainly of high relevance today. There is a large and growing audience for precisely this kind of material.
Though several guides for Boomers and the Sandwich Society exist, notes the author, on “transitioning into the role of 24/7 caregiving,” they fleetingly mention having the “death talk”—that is, conversation with parents about death and dying. End-of-life discussions—often taboo in our society—are all too important, and finding the right time and place can make all the difference. Regardless of when that transition begins, Gaccetta writes, one needs to be “in tune not only to your own future, but to that of your loved one as well.” That person, after all, will become an extension of your own life and, understandably, your responsibility.
Gaccetta, a second-generation Italian, grew up in a community of small family farms where, she writes, “the village was close-knit and the success of one family equated to the success of them all.” She does not shy away from using humor and employs the device liberally and intelligently. This is true both in the writing of her memoir and caregiver guide as well as throughout the day-to-day interactions with her mom. For example, chapter titles such as “100 Ways to Repeat the Same Question” and “How to Ensure Brain Damage and Help a Neighbor” capture attention with their witty phrasing. She shares her tale and that of her mother with dignity, candor, an abundance of practical information, and anecdotes of both the blessings and the difficulties of full-time caregiving.
US REVIEW of BOOKS