Friday, January 7, 2011

How To Deal When Parents Aren't Immortal

All of us lose our parents.

According to Francine Russo, never in history have so many of us had to deal with the declining health of our much older parents. At the same time, our culture belatedly is realizing the profit in providing services for the grey-haired halt, lame and the mentaly challenged.

In other words, the agony of diminished parents is probably gonna cost you. If you have siblings, the joint consensus in health care for a parent may cause time, grief, angst, confusion, and even possible expensive legal maneuverings. There is also a very real possibility, however, that all this cost leaves you with fellow adult children you can share the rest of your life with.

The book is "They're Your Parents Too!" or "How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy" by Francine Russo.

My father died when I was 19. My mother died when I was 35. I was the only surviving child. So why my interest?

I do a lot of volunteer work with persons in crisis. I lived in a retirement village for three years, observing the decline of some delightful people in their 80s and 90s. I have seen, firsthand in the last year, how siblings--loving siblings--have responded in the emergency of the sudden illness (months only) and death of women 74 and 90.

As Russo notes, we aren't always talking about the loss of our mothers, but typically, women outlast fathers, whether married to them or divorced.

IF you are able to be introspective at all, this book is incredibly valuable and cuts new ground.
If you have parents aging but in good health, it is excellent preparation ground. It is a book I would want to read if my own parent or parents were waning, or if my siblings and I were having trouble communicating or deciding how bad things are. It isn't a be-all by any means. It does offer resources for evaluation and possible outside help. As an aging parent myself, I find it valuable in potential decisions that will affect my sons and daughter-in-law.

Every country in the world is dealing with this problem of the first large-sized generation old enough to need longterm help from children still supporting their own children into adulthood.

I haven't finished the book yet. I am just now going into the chapters on dementia, which affects 40 per cent of the aging. I confined my own mother at 57 with dementia. She died at 71. In her time, there was no assisted living. Only a nursing home. And I was lucky to find the one I did.

I can't find the portfolio with the poems I wrote from that time. But I remember the beginning of the one I want:
"A shadow lives who used to call me daughter.
She, who has no memories, is one...."

My own sibs died before my memory begins. Reading this book, I see they still were a part of my journey. And that maybe there are things I can still do with adult sons to make my children's future better. Or maybe not. But I can try.

It is a very good read. I will stuff it down the throat of every volunteer and professional caregiver I know. Unless you are a self-absorbed narcissist or have NO family, You I will skip.

READ IT. Even if your parents are gone.



clairz said...

Thank you, Charlotte. This sounds like an important book for me to read.

We discussed our plans with my son over Christmas--never an easy conversation for even a grown person to have with his parents.

I certainly remember how reluctant my sister and I were about the conversations our own mother wanted to have with us--reluctant, because we truly did believe that she was immortal. But we were forever grateful for the careful planning that she did, and it was a great example for us.

As I told my son, there are events throughout our lives that we look forward to and plan for. Although not looking forward to it, now that we are retired and somewhat comfortable, death is the next big thing we have to plan for. But your post has made me realize that the next big thing is our own care when we aren't able to do it ourselves. Thank you again.

charlotte g said...

Thanks. This was one of my random picks in new nonfiction at the library.A lot of the best books I read I find there.
This one, however is an important book. Reminds me a bit of "Passages" some four decades ago.

Sandy ~~~ said...

Thank you. Clairz told me about your blog and the book today on her blog. I will read it...for me, for my Dad, for my mother-in-law....but mostly for my son and daughter.

Thanks again.