In this issue of JAMA, Adelman and colleagues1 describe an older woman who attempted suicide to escape the overwhelming burdens of caring for her ill and debilitated husband. This case starkly illuminates the despair that family (and friend) caregivers can feel when supporting frail or disabled relatives, and the failure of US health care to support them. Half a century ago when Medicare began, few people lived long with disabling chronic illness and family supports were more readily available. Today’s 65-year-olds, and all who come after, are likely to experience several years of needing another person’s help in the last phase of life.2 Many will find such help difficult to obtain; few live near large extended families, and few have younger family members who can afford to leave paid work to provide unpaid care of indefinite duration.
Lynn J. Strategies to Ease the Burden of Family Caregivers. JAMA. 2014;311(10):1021–1022. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.1769