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Final Posting Assignment for Adult Development and Aging-Posting due 11/30 at 5pm

sbressi's picture

Please begin reading Anna Strosser's memoir Who Cares the week of November 17th.  Please post some thoughts on the memoir and some questions you'd like to pose to Anna in class on 12/2 by November 30th at 5pm. 



Past Posting Prompts...

A posting is due by 5pm on Sunday 11/2/14; how does this article align with prevalent assessment frames for working with older adults (see Silverstone from Week 8)?  You might also comment on the impact of social constructions of old age, race, gender, or class as they relate to the tone of this article. 

Please remember to sign your posts with your first name and to "tag" them under "identity matters tags" (which are listed below) under "Aging".

Why I Hope to Die at 75

A posting is due by 5pm on 10/5 to the following Challenge Question;

Review the American College Health Association survey results, and using some of the developmental concepts in the Kroger text, offer some interpretation of the survey results in regards to mental health (beginning on page 13). 



sowk2's picture

How is author communicating the overarching themes in words, images and symbols?

1st frame:

Mass media and social networking now predominate. We forget that all written words spring from an oral tradition fundamental to expression and our need to exchange information to cement relationship and build community. Behind our words lie the arcane expressions of our humanity. These emerge in fairy tales.


2nd frame:

There was once and In the beginning are words, cues which locate the reader in time, central to the narrative, while simultaneously unlocking the reader’s imagination through framing the action of a fairy tale.


  • Prime the listener’sattention.
  • Develop patterns to internalize the structure of consequential movement (because this, then that).
  • Stimulate the imagination through projections which invite exploration of self and other in larger context.
  • Entertain while passing on knowledge and ways of discovering the world.
  • Provide sophisticated messages about realms of human nature which are absorbable at many developmental levels.
  • Build language skills including vocabulary to access abstract concepts of morality, culture and values.

Words hold the etymological ancestry of meaning and life experience, and include the historical changes embedded in their meaning. They are living vehicles which embody ideas/perceptions.


3rd frame:

Layered detail and information is conveyed through images. Sight is an assumed function of external stimuli. Yet it is a much more complex inner activity involving significant areas and interconnecting functions of the brain beyond photons stimulating the optic nerve.

The illustrations give us visual cues: to a place in time long ago; to the passage of time, as in the seasons. They give a sense of place, and a means to underscore macro themes and the lessons of the narrative.


4th frame:


  • Christmas Morning introduces winter: a quiet inner time, with waning light.
  • The Skin Horse Tells His Story exemplifies those we aspire to become because of the insights and kindness they have so freely given us.
  • Spring Time excites us with renewal, rebirth, metamorphosis.
  • Summer Days enable growth, exploration, the ability to ponder and make meaning providing a time to play, practice, and prepare.
  • Anxious Times remind us of transitions, what is tentative and unknown. They introduce illness and loss.
  • The Fairy Flower exemplifies the potential gains which rise out of despair. We can grow out of old identities and ideations, and accept the challenges of reaching for new meanings and new skills.
  • At Last! At Last! Attainment. Triumph. Adjustments necessary for new circumstances. Renewed confidence and discernment. New sight. New light.


5th frame:

How do we really learn something and internalize it so that it may become uniquely ours, part of who we are?

The symbols inherent in the words and images of this fairy tale draw from larger spheres of human perception transcending cultural, religious, historical and social contexts. For they synthesize how we experience universal themes about what it is to be human. Symbols provide codes elaborating how to give and receive love, and how to manage the multitude of challenges encountered along the way.


6th frame:



  • Waiting:progression of the seasons inherently includes separation from others and in turn precedes renewal which prompts continued development and growth into a new existence. Waiting is required to negotiate this journey. It is a necessary skill to weather all that life may demand.
  • Christmas:  for Christians this is Christ’s birthday, the birth of innocence and renewed faith. For Pre-Christians this date was the birthday of Horus symbolizing cycles of life and rebirth from time immemorial.
  • Rabbit: an ancient symbol of fertility believed by many in the ancient world to be an hermaphroditic entity able to reproduce without loss of virginity, and foundational to concepts of virgin birth adopted in Christian belief. Christian rites and holidays deliver the rabbit’s attributes of abundance, producing plentifully and being provided for: the foundations of trust. In The Velveteen Rabbit the rabbit’s earlier existence on earth as an inanimate stuffed toy evolves. The rabbit’s real, true existence, actually occurs in that other realm to which he was brought  by the Spirit Fairy.


These symbols and themes provide the scaffolding for our developmental course. We must overcome our fear of impermanence and increase our understanding of our indwelling capacity for abundance and spiritual renewal of the self. The narrative, the fairy tale, provides practice for and introduction to the tasks of entry into later life and ultimately old age when we come face to face with the inevitability of our own death. But Life Goes On.

sowk14's picture

Stress and Anxiety - In this survey the highest % of academic impact is Stress (27.9%).   Within the last 12 months of the survey, academics were cited by Males (39/1%) an Females (46.4%) as the most diffult or traumatic to handle.   Also 38.9% of males and 36.8% of females reported more than average stress.  In her recent book, One Nation Under Stress, retired Bryn Mawr feminist social work professor Dana  Becker calls stress  the "New Black Death".  Why is stress compared to the Black Death?  Because it is a metaphor that points to our fear of a fatality that is beyond our control - nothing we can do prepares us for it's arrival, nothing we can do protects us from the ravages of its course.  We feel helpless.  Becker  believes that popular notions of stress "deliberately focus on an individual's  ability to adpt to stressful conditions - completely sidestepping any effort to change the underlying social conditions that create 'stress' in the first place.   "The stress concept, Becker says, draws the outside in - and in such a way that we end up beliveing that we need to change ourselves so that we can adjust to societal conditions, rather than changing the conditons themselves... Stress gives us a way to talk with each other about our troubles at the same time as it keeps our travils uniquely our own."

scupo's picture

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Presentation Outline

Team East Coast, Beast Coast

Overarching Theme: Intersectionality

“A young child dressed in this way brings to mind “a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” disrupting the innocence of childhood.”

Simultaneously being child and wolf: a theme of intersectionality emerges as a key concept to Max’s story. The fluidity of identity and the multiple identities that we embody that are constantly in harmony and/or in conflict at different times and within different contexts.

“Being misunderstood in his everyday world leads Max to create another world, one where he can be his fully complex, contradictory, rebellious self.”

Overarching Theme: Development of Subjectivity Through Fantasy/Imagination

“It is common for elementary school children to look to adults for a model of how to perform in the world, so children who are uncomfortable trying to fit into expected categories of gender and sexuality must work to create role models for themselves just as Max does with the wild things. He is investigating and reinventing the “categories through which [he] sees” (Butler, 1999, p. xxii).”

Overarching Theme: Adolescence and Toddlerhood

“When he announces his plans to leave, the wild things react by crying out, “Oh please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” With this, Max hears the same words he spoke to his mother, this time framed explicitly with affection and love. He smiles as he recognizes that anger and love can occupy the same space, reframing his interaction with his mother and breaking the isolation that drove him to the wild things’ world in the first place.”

This also alludes to the idea of what we do in adolescence when we separate and seek autonomy while simultaneously missing/desiring the comfort of “home.”

Themes Conveyed Through Artistic Elements


Liberation through imagination/Escape from reality

Personal growth/Acceptance of reality

Imagination to Escape Reality

Transition from Childhood to Adulthood

Demonstrates the mastering of emotions

Expected for children to throw tantrums or fantasize to escape reality (like Max) when they are angry or upset

Adults are supposed to reconcile their anger (or another strong emotion) through other appropriate means.

From a developmental psychology standpoint, babies/children have the ability to see their parent as the “good parent” and the “bad parent” but have difficulty viewing these two sides as the whole of their caregiver

Transition from Childhood to Adulthood (cont'd)

Children are complex emotional beings

Children utilize fantasy and dreams to escape overwhelming emotions

Max uses fantasy to escape feelings of helplessness, anger at his mother

Max tames the Wild Things, masters his own emotions

Finally able to feel his mother's love again

Gender in Where The Wild Things Are

Both the illustrations and text support the link of masculinity to the pleasure of power and domination in Where the Wild Things Are. Max displays masculine characteristics throughout, most notably displaying aggression and domination towards the characters around him.

The theme of masculinity also shows in the illustrations. Max’s masculinity is expressed in the of him, wearing a wolf suit, holding a hammer and building a cave for himself. There is imagery of domination is when Max leaps off the stairs holding a fork, and when he is shown intimidating his small dog. Max continues on his journey in a boat that is named after him with Max being the captain and putting himself in charge of his journey.

The first lines are the only time we encounter Max's mother. But this short intro speaks volumes about her role in the home and again depicts masculinity and power when Max talks back. Max’s mother’s role as a caretaker is another depiction of traditional gender stereotypes.

Race in Where The Wild Things Are

Centers around conflict between desire for acceptance against superiority and oppression

Socioeconomic Status in Where The Wild Things Are

The little boy becomes a King, which is a symbol of wealth. And with wealth comes power


Disability in Where The Wild Things Are

Monsters demonstrate non-normative bodies (overbites, four fingers, different proportions)

They're "monsters," but also Max's friends

The images have been considered "unsettling," but the monsters are never portrayed as "ugly" or even as particularly "bad"

Max has behavioral issues--trouble calming down initially/controlling his anger--but is able to calm down with his imagination

Uses magic trick to calm down the monsters--gains control over himself by controlling monsters

Frequently banned because of its realistic portrayal of children acting out

scupo's picture

Race in Where the WIld Things Are Continued

Racial Divide: Monsters vs. Max

  • Reflects his desire for acceptance—for joining a community of others like him—but also for some measure of control/superiority àstill partly human and not 100% monster

Taming the Animals

  • “Tame[s] them with a magic trick” (otherworldly element of wisdom)—opportunity to prove his own self-worth and skill through his ability to tame them

Becomes king: Once they are frightened by him, they make him their king

  • Assertion of ultimate authority—wants both to be in control and to have earned status by garnering respect and admiration of others (unlike his mother, the beasts appreciate him, as they have chosen to make him their king); no longer oppressed by mother

Mission accomplished, time to go home:

  • On leaving, ‘beasts’ return to feral state—repetition of animalistic behaviors at end reinforces the separation and his superiority
  • At the end of the day, the desire is to return to security of family, routine (meal), and structure, not to remain in fantasy land in which he is always in charge

Discourse on race?

  • Integrate and relate, but still maintaining privilege—like you, but not actually you, and still better than you (consciously or unconsciously)
  • Shapes from an early age the notion of being able to relate to others (and even trying to be like them) but, at the end of the day, retreating back into your own identity
  • Mirroring past discourse—more paralleling 1963 discourse—but now in contradiction to current discourse
sbressi's picture

Stress and Anxiety - In this survey the highest % of academic impact is Stress (27.9%).   Within the last 12 months of the survey, academics were cited by Males (39/1%) an Females (46.4%) as the most diffult or traumatic to handle.   Also 38.9% of males and 36.8% of females reported more than average stress.  In her recent book, One Nation Under Stress, retired Bryn Mawr feminist social work professor Dana  Becker calls stress  the "New Black Death".  Why is stress compared to the Black Death?  Because it is a metaphor that points to our fear of a fatality that is beyond our control - nothing we can do prepares us for it's arrival, nothing we can do protects us from the ravages of its course.  We feel helpless.  Becker  believes that popular notions of stress "deliberately focus on an individual's  ability to adpt to stressful conditions - completely sidestepping any effort to change the underlying social conditions that create 'stress' in the first place.   "The stress concept, Becker says, draws the outside in - and in such a way that we end up beliveing that we need to change ourselves so that we can adjust to societal conditions, rather than changing the conditons themselves... Stress gives us a way to talk with each other about our troubles at the same time as it keeps our travils uniquely our own."

KatieC's picture

The survey revealed a high level of stress among the college students. The results indicate that many students are experiencing a combination of feeling overwhelmed with daily activities as well as dealing with family stressors and issues of individual identity, among others. Those in late adolescence have the continued goal of forming an identity and a sense of self. As I try to connect Kroger's four statuses of identity to the survey results, it seems that aspects of the moratorium stage are relevant as the students take more responsibility and search for a sense of self. In the 2011 Handbook of Identity Theory and Research, Jane Kroger and James Marcia discuss the drastic shift that occurs during one's transition into late adolescence. They write, "Faced with the imminence of adult tasks the late adolescent must relinquish the childhood position of being “given to” and prepare to be the “giver.” Accomplishing this involves changing one’s worldview as well as projecting oneself imaginatively into the future". As one takes on new responsibilities in life, a search for individual identity and increased concern with current and future goals would seem to add a variety of stressors to the expectation of independence that often comes with traditional college life.



Vladadeska's picture

Stress, anxiety, hopelessness, loneliness, anger, and sadness are some of the emotional states surveyed in the ACHA NCHA, a study of college students compiles for the fall 2013.  I am certain no one was surprised to find that college students rated these categorically negative emotions as having occurred during the last 12 months.  (As a side note, I would be interested to see if there are differences between these results and a similar survey among non-college students of the same age range.)  The developmental stages detailed and debated in Kroger’s text can guide researchers to make sense of what this study has found. 

My own gut reaction to the study is something along the lines of, “Well, of course they are scared, stressed, depressed.  Everything they have ever known of life has suddenly changed, and they must recreate who they are now and what their role is in their new environment.”  Looking at the college transition, late-stage adolescences are removed from their holding environment, whether that is their home, their school, or their community.  These young people are transplanted into an entirely new environment with a multitude of people from diverse backgrounds culturally, religiously, economically, and geographically.  In this new environment, they are being asked to perform new tasks, collaborate with others, and adjust to new standards of behavior and performance.  It is certainly beneficial for students to arrive at college with their developmental milestones at age-appropriate levels (as described by Erikson and Kohlberg), but it is to be expected that many of the students that arrive at college with varying stages of developmental mastery. 

While the foundational theories of Erikson and Kohlberg described in the book were beneficial for overall understanding of growth and development, I found that Blos and Keegan were easier to apply to these late-adolescents.  Expounding on Blos’s theories of individuation and object relations, Rice (1990) found that college students adjusted to college life more easily when they had positive separation feelings.  College students with negative separation feelings had a harder time adjusting to college life.  Lampsley and Edgerton (2002) found that there is a positive relationship between secure attachment and good psychosocial adjustment before entering the college years and good adjustment during college attendance.  Keegan’s work on identity formation makes some very good points about the demands placed on young adults.  He states that the demands placed on adolescents and young adults is often improperly matched to their capacity to understand and perform.  My interpretation of these studies and the ACHA NCHA report is that when college students are overwhelmed (84.4%) and they have not found a new supportive holding environment, they are likely to feel angry, sad, depressed, and anxious.

Polly Dobbs

Adult Development & Aging

sconstant's picture

In Kroger’s text, Marcia Erikson's focus on emotions being central to adolescences’ autonomy, relationship and social roles, can be seen within the results in the mental health portion of the survey. All of the questions pertained to one’s ability to handle stress, anxiety and large workloads in accordance to schoolwork. More specifically, these questions asked if students were depressed, stressed, and sad. All of these questions relate to the ability to self-sooth, maintain emotional state and regulate stress levels which can be attributed in many situations to social roles, relationships and support systems and ones own autonomy.  

It only makes sense that any adolescent transitioning into a college environment is going to encounter challenges in creating new social networks, while striving to find ones autonomy. Adjusting to a new environment both physically and emotionally would understandably have a great impact on mental health. Social demands are a key component in college life, as one tries to find friends, fit in and adjust to this new lifestyle and stressors. In looking at the data, one can infer that a combination of schoolwork and social life can correspond with feeling overwhelmed, feeling exhausted, and feeling anxious. In all cases women reported a higher negative occurrence of these feelings. One can wonder if this is indicative of female social roles and their expectation of being independent and successful. All of these aspects examined by the study can be applied to Erikson’s theory, especially her assumptions about mental structures. Relational orientation towards internalized and external others encompasses the idea of addressing social pressures, fitting in, and pleasing both one’s self and others.

scupo's picture

I wish I could say that the statistics presented by the American College Health Association in their National College Health Assessment were surprising. Stress, anxiety, and loneliness have become part of the college experience. According to the NCHA, 84.4% of males and females felt overwhelmed anytime within the last 12 months; 51.0% felt overwhelming anxiety in the last 12 months; 42.3% would rate their overall level of stress experienced within the last 12 months as more than average; 56.5% felt very lonely anytime within the last 12 months; and 7.5% of males and females seriously considered suicide any time within the last 12 months. The main cause to these negative emotions? 43.9% of males and females reported that academics have been very traumatic or very difficult to handle within the last 12 months. Despite the presence of such emotions, more and more people are enrolling in school with the hopes of attaining a higher educational degree.

Identity in Adolescence: The balance between self and other by Jane Kroger explored the developmental theories of Erik Erikson, Peter Blos, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jane Lovinger, and Robert Kegan. While all of these theorists have something different to bring to the table, there seems to be an agreement amongst them that adolescence is a crucial part of growing up that presents many challenges to the individual. I would like to focus on Erik Erikson’s theory because his psychosocial stages of development have always been a favorite of mine and I think he sums up why adolescence is such a tumultuous (in both good and bad ways) time. Erikson developed 8 epigenetic psychosocial stages that each human will pass through from infancy to late adulthood. One thing I like about Erikson is his notion that identity does not first emerge in adolescence; it actually evolves through earlier stages of development and continues to be reshaped through the life cycle (Kroger, pg. 20). Erikson defines identity as biological endowment, personal organization of experience, and cultural milieu all coming together to give meaning to one’s unique existence (Kroger, pg. 19).

His psychosocial model refers to the fact that the individual must constantly adapt to the demands and expectations of society. That is how psychological development occurs.  The psychosocial crisis during adolescence is identity vs. role confusion. During this time, one must now approach the task of identity formation. Optimal identity formation should show itself through commitment to those work roles, values, and sexual orientations that best fit one’s own unique combination of needs and talents (Kroger, pg. 23). One must find a balance between the person they are and the person society wants them to be. It is a time when young people are allowed to try and experiment with different roles. Erikson emphasizes the notion that one’s willingness to undergo times of uncertainty and experimentation is actually crucial to overcoming the crisis during this time. Erikson presents adolescence as a time when we are seeking our true “I” both within ourselves and through the eyes of society. Naturally, this would cause increased tension for the individual. College, like adolescence, is typically defined as the period in which people find their true selves; whether that’s by trying to be a completely different person, other types of experimentation, or merely following a predetermined path. College is also one of the first times in a person’s life that they leave their home. The combination of trying to find oneself (academically, intrinsically, etc.) and being away from a familiar home environment can cause an individual to become stressed, anxious, and depressed. This is why the findings of the NCHA are aligned with the notion that college, like adolescence, is a challenging but invigorating time for individuals.

Alexandra Lyon's picture

When looking into mental health and college students, I first thought of my college experiences and what mental health implications could be examined. Feelings of loneliness, anxiety and being overwhelmed were all feelings I felt at one point in time, especially my freshman year of college. Looking at the ACHA results, 84.8% of males and females combined felt overwhelmed at any point in the last 12 months and 56.5% of males and females together felt lonely at some point in time within the last 12 months. Looking at these findings and applying them to my own personal experiences as a college student seem to go hand in hand. In terms of relating to the Kroger text, it has been determined that ego development can act as a protective factor against life stressors (p.153). In late adolescence and early adulthood, the profoundly developed ego, dependent upon stage development, can serve as a buffer from outside stressors, especially feelings of anxiety and loneliness primarily seen in the early years of college students.

Erikka's picture

Kroger points out Cushman’s ‘empty self’ concept which places our understanding of developmental adolescence as a condition of modernity. “In the US an absence of community, tradition and shared meaning has created the conditions of the empty self; a sense of ‘I’ which experiences chronic emotional hunger for adolescents and adults alike.” The undergraduate students I work with at field placement have many forces acting upon them and represent a range of attachment styles and developmental stages (the problem with stage theory is that you aren’t supposed to be in more than one stage at a time and yet in reality many people are in multiple stages simultaneously or fluidly moving through stages).  

Similarities emerge between Erikson’s first and second individuation processes. The toddler: “Autonomy vs Shame & Doubt” in which children need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence; success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt. The adolescent: “Identity vs Role Confusion” in which teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity; success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self—or perhaps “empty self” or “false self.” Kroger explores adolescence as “the process of self-definition” however the process of self-definition is never concluded or complete.

The American College Health Association survey results show that in almost all categories female students reported higher percentages than males on feeling hopeless, lonely, overwhelmed, exhausted, sad, depressed, anxious or angry ‘anytime within the last 12 months.’ The only category that is almost equal in terms of male and female respondents is the ‘attempted suicide within the last 12 months’ category. Looking at the demographics of the study however show that of the respondents 64.2% were female, 33% male, and .4% trans*. It is also notable that 67.9% of the respondents of the study are white and 90.4% identified as heterosexual. The highest number of colleges represented in the study are located in the south while the next highest are colleges located in the northeast. 7 of the 57 schools included in the research were Postsecondary Minority Institutions (one Historically Black College or University).

Erikka Goslin

Vladadeska's picture

The first thing that popped into my mind when I read the title of this article is the book The Giver by Lois Lowry.  If anyone else has read this book, I'm sure they would agree that one person or even one society's view of the lack of value among elderly people can lead to disasterous consequences.  I am respectful of this man's opinion but I am cautious of the fact that at one point, every policy, law, and theory was at one point someone's opinion.  I find this article particularly dangerous because this man is well-spoken and he seems to back up his opinions with plausible facts.  That could lead people to give credence to his ideology of the declining value of a person and their contributions after the age of 75.  

Many of the things Emanuel says are reasonable.  The problem I found are the conclusions he has reached based on his research.  I feel that much of what he has said is based on the capitalist notions regarding assigning worth to people based on their production.  If you've ever lost a parent, grandparent, sibling, or spouse, I think you might agree that it isn't their income, their literature, their artwork, their music, their housework, or their cookies for which we yearn.  It is their presence in our lives that we miss, and we would gladly trade any wordly possession to have them back, even if for only an hour.  

Working with the elderly for many years now, I find that what families struggle with the most is that change in capability in their aging family members.  For so long they have relied on their parent or grandparent's strength and help, and they need to adjust their view of what strength and help looks like for their aging relative.  In my own experience, this same shift in expectations also occurs childhood/adolescence.  My grandfather and I were rather close when I was young but as I grew up, he became more distant because he did not seem to be able to shift his view of me from a child to an adult.  This is the same process in reverse that people struggle to adapt to when an older person becomes more disabled, sick, or dependant.  

I also thought of Jonathan Swift's work A Modest Proposal while I was reading this article.  It seems to me that our society's lack of support, funding, research, and resources for the elderly is symptomatic of society's malady, not the malady of the elderly population.  Government should be a reflection of the people it serves, and if it is truly a relfection, society in general needs a wake up call and an adjustment of priorities.  Children and the elderly are our most vulnerable populations and it seems to me that they are both getting shafted by policies, programs, and safety nets that were supposed to enhance their lives and protect them.  Bottom line is that the value of a life should not fluctate based on perceived worth.  A person is valuable simply because they are.


Polly Dobbs

Adult Development and Aging

KatieC's picture

Emanuel argues that growing old leaves people “faltering and declining”, “deprived”, robbed of creativity and of the ability to contribute to society. He refers to getting older as undesirable; that dying at an old age causes us to be remembered as pathetic and ineffectual instead of vibrant and engaged. With this mindset, it is understandable that Emanuel would want to die at 75 instead of growing older towards an unpredictable number of “pathetic” and “deprived” years. Unfortunately, this is not the first time some of us have heard this kind of undesirable idea of growing old. Social workers are not immune from falling into the same mindset. Before starting at Bryn Mawr College I left my job working with children in the Social Work field to pursue my education and gain experience working with older adults. The director of my previous agency responded to my resignation by saying:  “Why do you want to work with older people, they will die soon. Social workers need to put their energy into children, they are our future”. The Silverstone article explains there is little recent literature outlining specific practice guidelines or theoretical frameworks for working with older adults in their subjective realities. As other class members have mentioned, older adults, like anyone else, have individual experiences and desires, which cannot be assumed and lumped up into as exclusive a statement as “Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy”. I agree with the Silverstone article that the social work profession is in a position to step up and focus on higher quality work with older adults within a person-in-environment framework.  


Erikka's picture

Emmanuel’s piece was transparently provocative and was trying way too hard. The title itself is a gaudy showbill sign. His writing was blindly privileged, Neoliberal, robotic, lackluster and emotionally dissociated. Placing value on individuals’ ability to create and produce is very American in some ways. He sets out to critique this American drive for prolonging old age and life however he falls into the same rubric in his value judgments of worthiness. He misses the opportunity to be curious about the mystery of what drives some us to create or produce therefore missing the humanity of it. What about relationships? He talks about his family and friends yet is so guarded, careful and dry. I found interesting the idea of parental shadowing and that death of a parent is a great loss but so can be prolonging a parent’s life. I found myself imagining what his relationships with his parents are like; wondering whose shadows he may be in.

Emmanuel paradoxically criticizes death with dignity as an issue of just people who are hopeless, depressed and in need of professional help saying “People who want to die in one of these ways tend to suffer not from unremitting pain but from depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control.” This is where his argument rings false. He does not connect that the reason he wants to give up medical intervention after age 75 is precisely because of the fear of losing dignity and control. He makes a separation between the self and the other that can’t be reconciled. The piece failed because he was unable to admit a connectedness to others.

ssmalls's picture

Many people are uncomfortable talking about Alzheimer's disease and Dementia. Even doctors sometimes are reluctant to discuss this situation. That is understandable, but not talking about the illness can make the person with Dementia feel even more isolated, sad, and frustrated. With that, I feel that it is extremely important for caregivers to be given a chance to talk with others about what they are going through. Within my own family, we have found that reaching out to one another to talk about what we are experiencing, as members of the support network, to be essential to our own personal health. Furthermore, I found the reading to be exceptionally insightful into the mysteries of the disease. I appreciate Anna greatly for her willingness to share what's happened to her husband and family. Dementia is one nasty disease, which robs one of their personhood and, towards the end of life, there's not much that can to be done about it. In the end, as loved ones we assist patiently and continue to love. Anna gave a personal touch to a disease that is impersonal at best. In addition, as the editor, Margie did an amazing job piecing together the intimate stories of her family. This book is well-written and easy to become absorbed by. I loved it so much that I was sad when it was over.




alyon's picture

“Who Cares” provided me with a lot of insight into my personal life. This memoir had such a richness and personal touch that as I was reading I felt the emotions of Anna and her family members. The use of personal images, in my opinion, was one of the best aspects of the memoir. It allowed me as the reader to imagine more than a name in a story. It gave personality and texture to the memoir that made it so much more enjoyable to read.

I really liked the dementia information provided at the beginning of the memoir as well as the helpful caregiving tips at the end. My grandmother is, we believe, in the beginning stages of dementia and learning about the processes as well as signs and precursors served as invaluable information. Towards the end of the memoir when Anna begins talking about her new caregiver role for her husband, she talks about how as a nurse she loved caring for others and was always willing to care for and help others. Now that Ken is in need of care her role as a caregiver has taken on new meaning. I thought this was a very important note to remember. I think of myself as a helper and a caregiver to many people in my life. It makes me wonder what my caregiver roles will eventually evolve into…

Vladadeska's picture

I have been a caregiver for most of my adult life, and it was bittersweet to hear Anna recount her thoughts and feelings about being caregiver.  I was the primary caregiver to my grandmother in the nine months before her death.  She had a brain tumor which left her bedbound and unable to speak.  I found it really challenging to keep my cool when things were out of control.  I knew logically that when I was upset, my behavior and emotions got in the way of providing quality care.  It is difficult to maintain a selfless life, and it truly goes against some of our most basic human instincts to think of others before ourselves.  Anna talks about finding that balance between her own desires and dreams and fulfilling the role of caretaker for her husband.  At times it seems like she has had a tug-of-war over who in the relationship is living their dream both before her husband's declining health and after. 

I also found it really interesting to hear Anna talk about how she and her husband have problems communicating and expressing emotion to each other.  It gives me hope that my husband and I are not a failure, and that there are many other couples out there that struggle to communicate as effectively as they would like.  She talks about how challenging it is for her to express her emotions and thoughts so I found it very interesting that she has found expression through art to be such a comfort.  I would love to hear more about her work as a nurse, an artist, and a writer.  I know that this work was intended to focus on her experience as a caregiver but I find myself wanting to learn more about Anna.


1) I found it interesting that Anna talks about seeking help with her husband's depression but she does not talk about seeking help for her own depression and grief.  Has Anna ever thought about attending individual therapy?

2) Has Anna had any luck engaging her husband in art therapy?

3) Has Anna attended any support groups for caregivers of people with dementia?