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Answering the common questions I get from caregivers and family members

Columnist Carol Bradley Bursack responds to some of the things readers commonly ask about her writing and how she chooses topics.

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Dear readers: This morning, as I answered another email asking how I choose questions for the column, I realized that even readers who don’t ask might be curious. So, today I’ll address questions about how the "Minding Our Elders" column works.

Are these real questions from real people?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: While some people prepare a concise, well-written question that I use verbatim, the average email question is longer than my full column word count. I understand why this is so and am honored that people trust me enough to let it all out. However, these questions must be heavily edited to make sense to readers as well as leave room for a response.

My first step is to answer the writer’s email providing whatever comfort and resources I can. Then, depending on their question, I’ll consider the topic in view of the column to decide if it would be of interest to readers. If so, I’ll create an edited version for print.

Read more columns from Carol Bradley Bursack
Carol Bradley Bursack hears from a reader who feels they weren't given enough information about hospice and other alternatives as as their father went through cancer treatments.


Can people call or meet with me?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: While I realize that not everyone is comfortable writing, email allows me to schedule my time efficiently and work with more people overall. My contact information is available at www.mindingourelders.com .

Do I protect privacy?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: Occasionally, someone will tell me that I can print their names, but even then, I decline. People who write to me don’t need more trauma. Therefore, I use random initials as a signature and change identifying details. This may or may not include gender.

Do you advise people on insurance and legal questions?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Both insurance and legal issues can be dependent on an individual’s location, and for insurance, their coverage. These considerations aside, these are highly specialized fields. What I can do is direct people to possible resources for more information.

Do you repeat topics?

Short answer: Sometimes.

Longer answer: Since caregiving questions are unique in detail yet nearly universal in nature, I do occasionally readdress a common topic. This only happens if I’ve received numerous people asking what happens in a specific situation, or if there are important new resources to share. I try not to repeat a topic in a calendar year, though if there were an important medical breakthrough, I would consider it.


Why don’t you tell more stories and provide more detailed answers?

While I believe that storytelling is a powerful way to communicate, columnists’ space is necessarily limited. I do my best to provide readers with both comfort and information within the confines of a necessary word count. Those who want more information can follow up by subscribing to my blog at www.mindingoureldersblogs.com , or sending me a question via email.

Note: A reader’s question may not appear in the column for several months, but I’m deeply tuned into caregiving, so I personally answer their emailed questions ASAP.

As always, thank you for your questions, your comments, and your heartwarming notes. Back to your real concerns next week!

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver and a nationally-recognized presence in caregiver support. She's the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” a longtime newspaper columnist and host of her blog at mindingoureldersblogs.com. Carol's an introverted book nerd, so you won't see her mugging in viral videos, but you can easily reach her using the contact form at mindingourelders.com.
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