What's Inside Parenting Your Parents?
Foreword by Alexis Abramson, Ph.D.
Introduction The Case for the Cause: Caring for Aging Loved Ones Is a Major North American Social Issue and Challenge
Family Case Studies
1. Control: Laying on the Guilt Trip
For whatever reason, some parents find it necessary to induce a sense of guilt in their children, and sometimes even their grandchildren, making relations difficult and at times strained. Careful planning is necessary to defuse these very delicate situations.
2. Surgery: Weighing the Odds
Surgery at any age can be traumatic, but for the elderly there are special issues and considerations. Weighing priorities and planning recovery is a complex and demanding process that requires careful consideration.
3. Eldertravel: Balancing Risks and Benefits
Traveling distances can be difficult these days even for the middle-aged, and all the more so for the elderly. Good intentions aside, any significant travel plans for the elderly must be carefully considered and, if they’re to proceed, thoughtfully planned.
4. Independence: Helping Parents Live Their Lives
Sometimes in their zeal to help and protect their parents, children add to their discomfort by making decisions that may be well intentioned but actually serve to disrupt tried-and-true lifestyles. The result is increased family tension and parental angst.
5. Breaking the Mould: The Rebellious Grandmother
Sometimes we make assumptions about our parents that are wrong, and that can lead to negative consequences, as in this case of an elderly woman whose daughter mistakenly decides what her mother would like to do.
6. Culture Clash: Pitting Values against Needs
When hard, pragmatic decisions are required, the differing views and values of parents, their children, and those who influence them can lead to new challenges when trying to decide on the right thing to do.
7. Substance Abuse: Drinking All Day Keeps Reality Away
Parents who are unwilling or unable to cope with their lives sometimes resort to excessive drinking or taking too many medications. It is especially dangerous if drugs and alcohol are mixed, which can lead to dire consequences and to huge concerns for the children.
8. Sexuality, Romance, and the Family: When Children Worry about Their Parents
What do you do when your elderly mother or father becomes romantically involved at a stage of life when you think such relationships are no longer appropriate?
9. Tapping the Human Spirit: It’s Never Too Late to Create
An elderly parent is losing a sense of purpose, having no driving ambition and few interests. The challenge is to stimulate and invigorate that parent so there will be a regained sense of discovery and satisfaction.
10. Siblings: In Charge and On the Attack
When brothers and sisters vie for attention and favor from an elderly parent, the inevitable outcome is sibling rivalry and mutual distrust. If ever there is a time for siblings to pull together, it’s when a parent is in failing health.
11. The Conflicted Single Child: A Confusing Battle of Priorities
What does a young, single, upwardly mobile woman do when her mother is in the early stages of dementia and rejects all attempts to offer support? The emerging frustration has the potential to harm both the relationship and her career.
12. Finding the Middle Ground: Engaging Mediation with Age-Related Issues
The dissolution of a long-standing marriage is never easy, for the couple or for any children, no matter what their ages. When all avenues of reconciliation appear futile the focus should be on diminishing the negative fallout from the breakup so that important emotional and filial relationships can continue, despite the situation.
13. The Stroke: Sudden Challenges and Changes
A self-sufficient parent suffers a series of strokes, creating an instant family crisis requiring careful co-ordination of care and attention.
14. Dementia and Depression: Reading the Signs
Discovering that a parent has significant health problems but is in total denial is a disturbing and often frightening experience for children. Such a stressful situation requires careful action to best help all involved.
15. Advancing Dementia: When Life Gets More Difficult
When parents are deteriorating, their children must make some hard decisions about how they might best help them to be as secure and comfortable as possible, while trying to maintain their own lives and meeting their family commitments.
16. Technology: Opening New Avenues of Care Management
Technology has been a game changer in eldercare. It’s allowed myriad new applications to be mixed and matched, whether as in this case just monitoring in the home, or allowing for what used to be complex and invasive surgical procedures to become virtually outpatient experiences. The real beneficiaries are the elderly and their families.
17. Navigating the Health Care System: Knowing How to Get the Help You Need
Sometimes an elderly loved one whose health is failing can’t be cared for by family members because either there are none, or they don’t live in close enough proximity to be of constant assistance. In such instances, there is a need for someone who can take over the day-to-day care-giving roles that a family member might normally undertake, and, in essence, become the navigator of the health care system on behalf of the one in need and the family.
18. We’re On Our Own: How to Plan for the Future
A couple in their mid-sixties must consider how long and effectively they can care for an aging mother while planning for the day they will retire and eventually require care themselves.
19. The Difficulties of Decision-Making: Deciding What Treatments Make the Most Sense
One of the most difficult challenges faced by families is deciding what treatments might be appropriate to a parent in late-life and possible end-of-life situations. There are ways to ease the challenge and burden for children faced with such a daunting task.
20. Finding a New Life: Corrections and Concerns
Many elderly people who have lost a spouse want to move forward and “get a life” at some point, yet often their children find themselves unable to understand or approve. This inevitably leads to confusion and potential conflict.
21. Decision Time: Planning for the Inevitable
When one parent is ill and the other parent appears to be unable to make appropriate care-giving choices, the children must make some hard decisions about what steps to take to protect the dignity and well-being of both.
22. When Love and the Law Conflict: Who’s Right, Who Has the Right?
The conflicts that emerge when family wishes and the law clash can create barriers that often leave the aging and vulnerable loved one in limbo for way too long, and their families bitter and divided.
23. End of Life: Caring and Sharing
It’s natural for children to become intensely concerned and involved when a parent is in the process of dying, and even more so when the other parent isn’t well. The real challenge is to know how to become constructively involved rather than intrusive.
24. Moving On: Living Life without a Loved One
It’s not easy learning how to cope with the grieving, how to live on when a spouse or a parent dies, and how to deal with the trauma, guilt, and pain that’s involved.
Our Own Experiences
More than the Birds and the Bees: Having the Conversation with Your Parent by Michael Gordon
Roz and Max by Michael Gordon
A Week of Trauma Sets the Stage for Years of Hurt, Hope, and Endings by Bart Mindszenthy
Tools to Help You
Vulnerability Index: How Are Your Parents Right Now?
Some Financial Considerations: What You Need to Know
Directory of Key North American Resources