Elder care when you are an only-child

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Elder care when you are an only-child

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Parental aging and dying is what I call the Greek tragedy of only childhood. It is funny. The literature shows us that the closest residing daughter is the person who takes on the lionshare of elder care for parents. You can find plenty of stories of siblings who get torn apart throughthe whole process. I am sure I should find all of that reassuring, but I don´t because there is a certain existential dilemma at the heart of being your parents´only child which is when they are gone, who are you and what is that experience like? I know that for myself I think about it a lot and the people who I know are only children, people who I have interviewed, and I am close friends with think about it too. It is really hard. There are some things that you can do. My parents, for example, bought long-term health insurance so that their actual care is something which they know will be provided for so that won´t be as much of a burden on me. But emotionally it is a tough thing. I am grateful that I have old friends and a marriage which has been part of my parents´ lives for a long time and those relationships will continue to be how my parents live on through memory. But when I even utter the phrase how my parents live on through memory, it feels horrible to me. I am sure it does to anyone or to most people, but because growing up in a single child family can often be such an intense and emotionally intense experience, that loss will be especially intense as well. And I dread it.

Watch Lauren Sandler, MA's video on Elder care when you are an only-child...

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Lauren Sandler, MA

Journalist & Author

Lauren Sandler is the author of One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One, and a journalist who writes on cultural politics and gender issues for publications like Time, The New York Times, and Slate. And she’s as an only child and the mother of one herself. 

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