How Sibilings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy
By 2030, there will be a record 71 million Americans aged 65 and older and the majority will need some sort of long-term care, according to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Several years ago I considered myself a member of what was referred to as the “sandwich generation.” Esteemed members are those who are parents of young children, yet are facing the responsibility of being caretakers for their aging parents.
In my case, I became the caretaker of my elderly grandmother, who lived to be 101. Yes, I come from a family with very strong genes. My grandmother, born in 1901, was the oldest of 9 children, and just about outlived them all.
My grandmother, who never spent a day in the hospital in her life, was quite independent, living alone in a senior citizen apartment until she was 95. A good life, and natural aging caught up with her, and I had to apply to the probate court for conservatorship. Eventually she was admitted to a convalescent home nearby.
I recently had the opportunity to review an informative book by Francine Russo, “They’re Your Parents, Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy” (Bantam Books, New York)
Francine Russo is a widely recognized journalist known for her alertness to developing trends, especially in her own boomer generation. For nearly a decade Russo covered the boomer beat for Time magazine. She brings a rich personal history to her writing as a daughter, sister, wife, widow, mother of two, and stepmother of three. She has a Ph.D in English and lives in Manhattan.
In the book, Russo draws on her own experiences as well as those of dozens of families, healthcare works and assisted living experts to get to the heart of the matter: what it costs – financially, physically and emotionally – to become your parents’ caregiver.
My daughter is currently a Marketing Director for an assisted living facility here in Connecticut and deals on a daily basis with the tribulations of adult children making life-altering decisions such as those described by Russo. Always close to her great-grandmother, as a teen she was quite aware of the tremendous pressure I was under. I think this experience has aided in her success as a Director of the facility.
In the book, Russo addresses:
- Communicating more constructively to escape the “anger/built gridlock”
- How to reach consensus when siblings disagree about their parents needs: overcoming denial and “distrusting the messanger.”
- How sibilings can be in it “together,” even long-distance, when one is doing almost all of the caregiving.
My brother lives out of state and caught up in his own career. Although we consulted on what course of treatment was best for my grandmother, the bulk of the responsibility fell on me – a parent of two teenagers at the time, who also worked full-time.
Caring for dependent elderly parents or grandparents can be one of the most isolating experiences most people ever have to face. Becoming a carer can sometimes be rewarding, but it’s hardly ever easy. It can be a very lonely life, and friends can start to disappear when you’re not so readily available for evenings out, etc. Even those who stay the course can find it hard to listen to the things you feel the need to talk about, and you’re likely to find their conversation very trivial compared to what you’re dealing with.
The author touches on topics that siblings of aging parents need to know that it’s essential that primary caregivers get some time off. This is absolutely vital, and not likely to be offered unless you make a point of saying that you need it. It’s no reflection on your abilities as a carer, or your love for the person that you’re caring for, but you need to take at least some care of yourself if you’re going to take effective care of anybody else.
Caring for someone can very tiring, both physically and emotionally, so you need to be able to recharge your batteries as often as you can, in order to avoid falling victim to depression yourself.
You have a life, as well, and the right to some enjoyment.
The author further discusses opportunities for reconciliation even when sibiling tensions still simmer after parents die, while reinventing the family and sustaining the family connection into the future.
I highly recommend this book, and suggest that if you’re currently in a position with aging relatives, to read it and circulate it to your family members. Oftentimes it’s easier to make a subliminal point rather than have a face-to-face confrontation over responsibilities.
I’m going to make certain that my own adult children read it.
Moomette’s Magnificents is hosting a Giveaway Contest! For a chance to win, there will be one (1) winner of the book DO IT OR AGE QUICKLY: 60-Second Practices to Live Better, Stronger, and Longer by personal wellness trainer and martial artist JB Berns.
Please include a way of contacting you. Should you be the contest winner, this information may be shared with the contest sponsor in order to send your prize.
Main Rule: (remember if this rule is not followed then no others will count)
a) Sign up for my free Newsletter Updates to my blog through my e-mail Feedblitz link (on the top of my right column or let me know if you already are, in a separate comment) AND
b) Share whether you or someone you know will be or has ever experienced the responsibility of caring for aging relatives and how you or they were affected by it.
This contest will run until March 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm.
For Additional Entries, check out my Contest Entry Rules.