When Kate Washington and her husband, Brad, learned that he had cancer, they were a young couple: professionals with ascending careers, parents to two small children. Brad’s diagnosis stripped those identities away: he became a patient and she his caregiver. Brad’s cancer quickly turned aggressive, necessitating a stem-cell transplant that triggered a massive infection, robbing him of his eyesight and nearly of his life. Kate acted as his full-time aide to keep him alive, coordinating his treatments, making doctors’ appointments, calling insurance companies, filling dozens of prescriptions, cleaning commodes, administering IV drugs.
She became so burned out that, when she took an online quiz on caregiver self-care, her result cheerily declared: “You’re already toast!” Kate Washington’s new book “Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America” is the story of one woman’s struggle to care for her seriously ill husband—and a revealing look at the role unpaid family caregivers play in a society that fails to provide them with structural support.
Kate Washington is an essayist and food writer who currently serves as the dining critic for The Sacramento Bee. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The Washington Post, Eater, Catapult, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She lives in Northern California. Connect with her at kawashington.com and on Twitter (@washingtonkate).