Imagine caring for an ailing loved one to the point where you might even consider a “mercy killing.”

Virginia “Ginger” Sanders was confined to a wheelchair after a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Her husband, George, was devoted to her, and alone did all the chores needed around the home.  In addition he was her sole caretaker and companion, he even applied her makeup.  He did everything.

Eventually, Ginger was diagnosed with gangrene on her foot and was told she might need an amputation. Facing the prospect of losing her toes and ending up in a nursing home Ginger begged George to take her life.  He, out of love, did.  George was under so much stress as the caregiver that his own health began to decline.

Their story is compelling because it shows us the untold hardships and devotion of caregivers like George.

Unfortunately, his health decline is not uncommon.   Family or friends often end up performing the day-to-day caregiving for their disabled or elderly loved ones with little or no training.  Caregivers sacrifice their own health, finances, leisure time, and companionship with friends and other family members.

Statistically, caregiver spouses die before the person to whom they provide care because they fail to take a break and care for themselves as well.   They do so without realizing that by caring for themselves too they can provide even better care for their loved one.  Caregivers should seek support from other family members, hire helpers, consider adult day care, or enlist respite care.  If the caregiver isn’t alive and healthy, who will provide the caregiving?

Resources and support are available to caregivers through the Illinois Department on Aging’s Care Giver Support program.  For more information on finding help, respite care, adult day care, training, and more visit

Updated 1-15-2024
Originally published 7-25-2013