Americans at Work: Caring for Our Elders

This week, our Americans at Work photo essay features images of caregivers at work in eastern Massachusetts, in their offices and in the homes of the elderly clients they serve, made by photographer Amanda Swinhart: “Aging is something most of us do not like to think about. Though subconsciously we are aware of its inevitability, we often avoid imagining our impending aging, and the real possibility that we may have to endure this process alone. Yet, for the men and women in these photographs, along with so many others, aging is no longer something in the distant future; it is an encroaching reality that threatens their independence and strips them of their dignity.

In pursuing this project, my goal was to highlight the importance of elderly care and the challenges faced by both the elderly and their caregivers; challenges that are so often overlooked within a society that tends to be centered around its youth. To illustrate this essential work, I chose to shadow two employees, Marius Zakarauskas and Hillary Tarr, as they went about their days as case managers at Springwell. Their roles are to ensure that all of their clients’ individual needs are being met. Tarr currently manages the cases of 82 elders, while Zakarauskas works with 68, and both spend part of their day doing in-home visits.

Springwell is a private, non-profit organization that has been creating, managing, and coordinating services for the elderly and disabled in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area for more than 35 years. Springwell seeks to heighten awareness of elderly needs by educating both elders and their caregivers about the potential benefits and services available to them, with their ultimate objective being that elders should remain as independent and comfortable as possible.

As I photographed this project, I realized that while in many ways life appears to become simpler for these elders, it is evidently far more complicated in others. The smallest tasks and freedoms we take for granted every day, like cutting our own food or opening a door, are increasingly overwhelming and nearly impossible for many of them. I found myself grappling with the idea that I too might find myself or loved ones in a very similar situation some day. And while this thought is still troublesome, there is comfort knowing that because of workers like Tarr and Zakarauskas, and the services of organizations like Springwell, the effects of aging do not have to be managed alone.”

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