Woman ready for cataract surgery, surrounded by friends

Mad in Pursuit Notebook

When the Caregiver Needs Care


17 May 2023. By the time you read this, I will have completed my second cataract surgery. New eyes! Having worn glasses or contacts since third grade, corrected vision will be a real treat.

When you talk to people who’ve had cataracts removed, the standard response is something like, “Piece of cake! You’ll love the results!”

Subscribe to get my newsletterWith one eye done, I believe that. The procedure was swift and my left eye is enjoying crisp vision.

But the run-up has been a yearlong anxiety attack.

I am the sole caregiver for my 91-year-old husband, who has dementia and needs a walker to get around. We’ve organized our lives around routines and rituals that have added a quiet sweetness to this chapter of our lives together. Months of covid-avoidance isolation has added to our sense of living on a private island.

The problem comes with the need to separate, if only for a day—a day when I literally can’t be in the driver’s seat.

Two tasks emerge. One, having to ask someone to escort me to the hospital and back. Or if not asking directly, raising the white flag of neediness and hoping someone notices. Two, finding someone to sit with Jim—someone who can manage the small crises that come with being 91. Rinse and repeat for the second eye.

Complications insert themselves.

One, the surgical-procedure system operates on its own timetable to optimize its staffing and facilities. Procedures are scheduled months in advance, but the actual times are unknown until the night before. My team has to be on call.

Two, our friends are aging as well, with their own vulnerabilities. Of course, covid wreaked its havoc, too, taking people offline for weeks at a time, unpredictably.

So, this has been one of those situations where you can’t just drift along and assume “things will fall into place.” I had to be anxious. I had to be planful. I had to find aides with flexible schedules for Jim. For each surgery, I had to line up a transportation companion and a backup and a backup-backup. Slowly, the threads of need were woven into a plan.

As you are reading this, I know I will be counting my blessings.


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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.