Jamaica Plain resident Mindy Fried's book "Caring for Red: A Daughter's Memoir" has led her to creating a podcast to discuss her caregiving experiences. Fried answered questions from Jamaica Plain News about the book, the podcast and more.
Q: You've been touring with your book "Caring for Red: A Daughter's Memoir" for more than a year. Where has the tour taken you?
Fried: Yes, indeed, I’ve been traveling all over the country, giving talks and facilitating conversations about caregiving. I’ve spoken at events sponsored by independent bookstores like Papercuts JP and Porter Square Books, locally, as well as bookstores in Seattle, Albuquerque, New York City and Greensboro, North Carolina. I’ve presented in university classrooms at Boston College and Brandeis locally, as well as at Georgia State, University of Southern California and UC Santa Barbara. And I’ve spoken at book festivals in Boston and Buffalo. I have really enjoyed talking with people about my own story, but I have especially loved hearing caregiving stories from other people all over the country.
Q: What is the book about?
Fried: "Caring for Red" is a memoir about caring for my 97-year-old father in the last year-and-a-half of his life. Writing about my father’s demise and ultimate death was a way to reflecton what I was experiencing, and more deeply, to deal with the really hard work of grieving. I had a complicated relationship with my dad, but I loved him deeply and felt loved unconditionally by him. The book is basically about my process of transformation as a daughter and as his caregiver, as I worked as hard to ensure that he lived his last “chapter,” so to speak, in dignity and feeling well-loved.
My father lived independently until he was 96-years-old, until he took a terrible fall. Falls are the number one reason why frail elders land in institutions. We moved him into a small apartment in an assisted living facility which I call Harmony Village in Buffalo, New York. Much of the “action” in the book takes place within the institution. I wanted readers to have a sense of what it’s like for elders to live in assisted living, with the regimen of meals and medical care and social activities, knowing that this “home” is possibly one’s last.
I also felt that I needed to tell the story of a trauma that my father experienced in his younger years, something that had a ripple effect on our entire family. During the 1950s, my father was subpoenaed to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where he was asked the now-infamous question, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” The answer was yes, but he refused to answer their questions. He had joined the party when he was a young social justice activist. The “witch-hunt” of HUAC really infuriated him. Literally thousands of everyday citizens, including people who worked in government, the military, in universities and with unions, were being called to testify about their political beliefs and activities. He felt that the government didn’t have a right to target people because of their political affiliations, so he challenged the right of the committee to exist, and also used the 1st amendment, our right to free speech. As a result of his refusing to speak, he was “blacklisted,” meaning that no employer would hire him. And our family was ostracized by family and friends for many years. I have woven this family trauma into my storytelling in "Caring for Red," including how it played out for my father in his final years.
Q: Now you're creating a podcast called "Who Cares?" How will the podcast relate to the book?
Fried: Good question! As I spoke with people about their caregiving experiences, I discovered the universality of many of the issues I was dealing with – the challenges of being a “parent” to one’s parent, coordinating care with siblings, and making decisions about whether and/or when to put a loved one into an institution when you’re not able to provide adequate care. "Caring for Red" is my personal story, but there are many stories out there. The podcast will provide a platform for people to share their stories. Also, after all that travel, I’m pretty excited about turning to the power of audio – and broadening the conversation to anyone with access to the internet!
Q: What will the podcast be about? How are you finding people to feature on the podcast?
Fried: “Who Cares?” will explore the world of caregiving through storytelling and information-sharing. It will include interviews with caregivers who provide care 24/7 and those who provide care from afar; care providers like geriatricians and social workers who support families and create connections among elders to reduce isolation; researchers who study aging and end-of-life issues; elders who talk about what keeps them engaged and how they deal with set-backs -- and lots more.
Coming up with ideas for episodes is the fun part! My goal is to create a community of caregivers, care providers and others to reduce the isolation of caregiving -- and to provide a platform for people to share their stories more widely through the power of audio storytelling. The podcast will feature:
- Caregivers who provide care 24/7 and those who provide care from afar;
- Care providers like geriatricians and social workers who support families and create connections among elders to reduce isolation;
- Activists who are fighting to improve wages and working conditions of low-wage care providers;
- Researchers who study aging and end-of-life issues;
- Elders who talk about what keeps them engaged and how they deal with set-backs and lots more.
Q: You're using an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for the pilot phase of the podcast. Why do you need money for the podcast?
Fried: The fundraiser for “Who Cares?” is intended to raise enough money to fund 5 or 6 pilot episodes of "Who Cares?" as well as to create a promotional package that I’ll use to find sponsors who will provide long-term support for the podcast. The budget includes funding for studio rental, co-producers, promotional video, theme music, social media and marketing support, audio transcription and some basic equipment (e.g., Zoom recorder, two mics).
Q: Where will the podcast be available?
Fried: It will be available on all sites where people find their podcasts, including iTunes and Sketcher.