Caring Currents

The Transformative Nature of Caregiving

Last updated: Apr 01, 2008

Caring for Your Parents, a documentary portrait of five families that have taken on the role of caregiver to aging parents, premieres April 2 on selected PBS stations across the country. On the eve of the premiere, I spoke with writer and producer Michael Kirk. Kirk said that while he was working on the film, a lot of people told him how difficult they found it to talk with their parents about how they hoped to spend their final years. He said his own hope is that his film will help jump-start that conversation in living rooms across the nation. If your family watches, and it gets you talking, send us a note -- we'd love to listen in.Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from my conversation with Kirk that really got me thinking. Read the full interview with Michael Kirk here.There's been a lot of attention paid recently to the pressures faced by the "sandwich generation," and the burdens of caregiving, but your film captures moments of real joy between parents and the children who have chosen to care for them.About the third time I came back and looked at the tape, I said, "You know what's going on here? This is a film about love." What I saw through all five families is that a transformation takes place. The caregiving experience becomes a transcendent obligation; a two-way street where the caregiver is receiving as well as giving. That was a mind-blower to me. I asked, "Did we just get lucky with our characters? Should there be more conflict here?" But the fact is, in a successful caregiving experience, you go through a transformation from doing it out of guilt or obligation to a sense of being in partnership with your parent. The relationship is wholly new, person-to-person, and, as someone says in the film, that's what love is.