Fairfax author M. Elizabeth Sweeney published a memoir to help caregivers and aging parents. Nineteen million Americans are caring for someone over the age of 75, and Sweeney was one of them—yet she couldn't find a book about the eldercare issues she encountered with her mother. So she decided to write it.
"'Losing Marmee' is a memoir with a purpose: to give fellow caregivers a heads-up about the surprises that may be coming their way," states Sweeney. "No one ever told me that a person could 'graduate' from hospice, or that I might visit my mother one day and find her unable to speak."
"Over the years, I learned to dread the early-morning phone calls that would send my blood pressure skyrocketing," Sweeney continues. "In later years, the events came more frequently and the time required to juggle them—even though my mom was in a great assisted living facility with 24/7 caregivers—took a huge toll on my own life."
A Marine in World War II, Marmee is every bit as indomitable and self-determined as her namesake in Louisa May Alcott's “Little Women.” Her bravery and sense of humor permeate the essays that make up this substantial volume.
The book begins with the shocking loss of Sweeney's father, and follows the ensuing several years of her mother's decline. Peppered with flashbacks to happier times, the pieces vary in length and tone, and are written in the relaxed, conversational style of a storyteller.
“Losing Marmee” is also a love—one that millions of boomer daughters will recognize. As she devotedly hauls dry cleaning, moist wipes and "Exactly the Right Kleenex" to her mother's assisted living facility, Sweeney reveals a daughter's determination that her mother's last days will be as clean, safe and happy as humanly possible.