Relentless days

Sona Mehring
Sona Mehring of CaringBridge Photo by Liz Allen of Liz Allen Photography

Every month in this magazine, we publish an article about caregiving — provided by the good folks at the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative.

Caregiving — the act of providing unpaid help to family members or friends who have physical, psychological or developmental needs — is hugely important issue for pretty much anyone living in the U.S. today.

Why? Medical advances have helped us all live much longer. But older adults often face challenging health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease.

And because health care and long-term care are extremely expensive, nearly all of us will be called to fill in the gaps at home. And it isn’t easy.

Many caregivers are still raising children, so they’re forced to combine caring for their parents and their kids: Take for example our totally amazing Cover Star this month: Sona Mehring, the founder of the Minnesota-based nonprofit organization known as CaringBridge.

While caring for her three school-age sons at home, working as a software engineer and running a growing nonprofit organization, Mehring also found herself playing caregiver to her beloved mother at home during two life-threatening illnesses, Stage IV breast cancer in 1998 and liver cancer in 2001.

“The pressures to be a good mom and a good daughter were colliding, and I wasn’t living up to my personal expectations for either,” Mehring wrote.

“I was squeezed at both ends. I look back on those relentless days and wish I had raised the white flag sooner — not for surrender, but for assistance.”

I was already in awe of Mehring’s achievements in creating CaringBridge — a global organization based in Eagan that helps families set up free personal websites to share information quickly during any type of health event.

But when I read her first-person perspective on the realities of caregiving, I was floored by her honesty. She also wrote a special article with tips for people who want to support the caregivers in their lives.

Her writing, I hope, will help caregivers feel they’re not alone and that there are steps they can take to make life work better. (Anyone can use CaringBridge, including folks providing care for elders.)

Thank you, Sona Mehring, for sharing your story with Good Age!