Philadelphia author Lorene Cary explores caretaking experience in latest memoir

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Writer Lorene Cary was living in the rectory next to the Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd, where her husband was rector, when she began caring for her grandmother.

"I called her nana," explains Cary. "She came with us on hospice and we expected that she would live maybe six weeks, maybe a few months. She got better and lived with us for a year and a half."

Cary's grandmother passed in 2008 at the age of 101 and Cary shares the experience in her memoir called, "Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century."

"It's about what feels like a mash up of fear, and love, and memory," says Cary. "It's called 'Ladysitting' because that was the word we used for taking care of nana."

Cary goes on to explain, "It was a way to put the respect on it." She describes her nana as a strong woman who was resentful of needing to be taken care of in her older age.

Her grandmother, Rosalie Lorene Hagans Cary Jackson, was born in 1907.

"My grandmother came to Philadelphia at six years old," says Cary. Her father brought her and her four siblings - three sisters and a brother. "Her mother died very soon after."

Cary believes that loss impacted her grandmother. She says her nana did not like to risk intimacy. "She could be very cold," says Cary.

However, she remembers good times too. "There was a lot of laughter," says Cary.

She has many pictures of nana and herself as a child. "She spoiled me. I knew it. I loved it," says Cary. She says that is how she remembers her as a grandmother.

Cary says caretaking fell to her family because her nana didn't have a plan for end-of-life care. She says death was a difficult subject for her nana and one that was not talked about.

"Everybody wants to die at home," says Cary. "I think people need to discuss it."

If a family is considering caring for an older loved one, Cary recommends having a support system in place. "Think about who's in the network and who also wants to join this commitment with you," says Cary.

Cary says she hopes sharing her experience will help others.

"Between 50 and 60 million families in America every year take care of someone who is elderly, dying, or disabled," explains Cary. "I wanted to be company with those people."

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