When my elderly neighbor, Joe, was widowed, I did what most neighbors would do. I didn’t know him or his wife well, but I knew he was completely deaf and that he was probably lonely. I started to visit, thinking I could help him if he needed groceries or something. What began as a neighborly check-in continued into a kind of adoption of Joe, by myself and my two sons, ages six and eight. For five years, the kids and I were Joe’s family. Shortly after Joe passed, my aunt and uncle moved from Virginia to North Dakota to be near us, their only family. Then my parents and in-laws began having health troubles. In all, I cared for seven elders over the span of two decades. During that time...
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