Why Part of Caregiving Is Listening

Caring for someone requires more than good intentions. Founding editor Barry Boyce shares what he learned about being present and truly listening from the time he spent with his aging mother.


My mother lived to 97, the last survivor of her generation within her family, her extended family, and her circles of friends. In her last years, her body was wracked with pain. As her pain and loss mounted, I saw how small my pains were by comparison and yet I complained as much or more. I better toughen up if I live that long, I thought.

Caring for her fell mostly to my brother and his wife, who lived nearby. I may have done as much harm as good trying to relieve their burden during my visits. Taking my mom out to lunch, I absentmindedly put her purse on the car roof before pulling off. Its contents, strewn along a highway, were fortunately recovered by a good Samaritan, but it took him a long time to figure out how to get in touch.

When it comes to extending care to others, good intentions may indeed pave the road to hell.

I learned that day just how anxious a person in advanced age can become when routine is thrown all to hell. Another time, I thought I’d do my mother a favor by buying her a toaster oven,…