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On the Brain
June 2018

Of Loss and Love—A Physician’s Odyssey of Spousal Caretaking

Author Affiliations
  • 1Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Neurol. 2018;75(6):659-660. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.0476

A career in medicine exposes physicians to chronic illness, disability, death and dying, loss, sadness, and grief. It is doubtful, however, that such experiences with patients can match that of the physician’s taking care of his or her own loved one.

Caring for patients in a crowded docket allows for brief, episodic encounters, with little breathing space between patients. Being the physician caretaker of a loved one with terminal illness and anticipating loss, however, makes the caretaking relationship continuous. References to “the 36-hour day” characterize the demands of this perpetual work.1

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