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Intimate package looks at families upended by caregiving in pandemic

Betty Bednarowski. 79, braces herself against the walls as she walks to the living room while her daughter, Susan Ryder, watches from behind, in Rotterdam Junction, N.Y., Nov. 29, 2021. A year ago the family took on caregiving, pulling Bednarowski out of a nursing home where she suffered isolation and neglect during the COVID-19 lockdown. (AP Photo / Wong Maye-E)

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National writer Adam Geller and photographer Maye-E Wong teamed up for an powerful, bittersweet portrait of a family struggling to cope with an unexpected and unrelenting responsibility faced by thousands during the pandemic: caregiving for an elderly parent in the wake of nursing homes ravaged by COVID.

For this final installment of the 2021 series “Scars of Covid,” the pair spent days in Rotterdam Junction, N.Y., with Susan Ryder and her mother, Betty Bednarowski — who had been in desperate condition when the family brought her home from a nursing facility in lockdown. Geller and Wong sensitively chronicled the family’s exhausting routine of daily care as well as the uplifting moments of shared time with 79-year-old Betty.

Wong also recorded audio and worked with producer Samantha Shotzbarger on an evocative audio piece that brought another layer of humanity to the journalism. And Shotzbarger brought all the elements together in compelling online presentation.

Discharges from nursing homes are up during the pandemic, and Geller sought out other families that have made the decision to take on caregiving. In most cases the story was the same: Happy moments tinged with incredible stress for adult children whose lives were upended by the hours of care their elderly loved ones require.

The story drew more than 100,000 pageviews in its first day and topped AP’s reader engagement scores.

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