AARP Eye Center
You may not be able to play a note or keep a beat, but if you are a caregiver for a loved one, you have something in common with renowned jazz musician Bob Baldwin.
It’s a role that Baldwin assumed at age 11, when his now-deceased father contracted encephalitis. And it’s one that he recently took on again, some 50 years later, for his 91-year-old mother.
“For me, taking care of family is not an option; it’s an obligation,” says Baldwin, 60, who lives in Cobb County. “Still, if you’re not careful, it can take you over the edge if you are not ready emotionally.”
For National Family Caregivers Month, he will share his music and insights on caregiving during a virtual AARP in Atlanta Couch Concert, on Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
Baldwin, a native New Yorker, is a jazz pianist, arranger and host of the NewUrbanJazz radio program.
The concert is free, but you must register at bit.ly/ACCBobBaldwin. It will remain available for viewing afterward at that link.
“A lot of people still can’t get out and attend large in-person events. This concert allows them an escape,” says Jil Hinds, associate state director for AARP Georgia.
Advice that’s music to the ears
During the show, AARP will share caregiving resources at https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/. Georgians can find additional local support by visiting https://states.aarp.org/georgia/caregiver-resources.
Baldwin doesn’t presume to be an expert on caregiving. “Every situation is different,” he says. “All I can say is, just do the best you can and be kind to your family and be there when they need you. Someday the shoe may be on the other foot.”
He feels lucky that he was able to return to New York last year to care for his mother, Addie Baldwin-Gaines, who had a benign brain tumor removed.
“It fell on me to oversee her care—and during COVID, which made everything so much harder,” Baldwin says.
After posting about his situation on social media, he heard from many families who are also struggling to care for loved ones.
“I got such a broad response from so many people,” he says. “That opened my eyes and let me know how many people are going through the same kind of thing.”
The biggest challenge in being a caregiver is balancing your personal life and the needs of those you are caring for, Baldwin says.
“In some cases, outside business or personal relationships can possibly crumble, because there’s only so much of you to go around in a day, week, month,” Baldwin says. “ In hindsight, that balancing act is difficult and really requires a deep understanding of all folks involved. It’s hard to be there for everybody at the same time.”
There were definite upsides to the year Baldwin spent caring for his mother, who no longer needs his presence full time.
“When I had downtime, I wrote music and imparted my life experience into it,” he says. “There’s a fine line between art and life. When you are able to fuse the two together, the art has a lot more meaning to it.”
Among the songs Baldwin composed are “Back to Basics (Family First)” and “B Positive.”
Baldwin also improved his cooking skills and began taking better care of himself. “I started thinking about my own mortality,” he says. “I watched what I ate more and made sure I was taking my vitamins, getting exercise, drinking water and keeping my immune system up during COVID.”
Taking over the caregiver duties also brought him closer to family. “I had not seen them as much as I have recently. We had a chance to talk about the past and the current. We now have an even stronger, more beautiful bond.”
Ann Hardie is a writer living in Atlanta.
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