Caring for & Dealing with Elderly Parents: The Books
What I learned from reading the 10 most popular books on elderly parents.
In a previous article I did a little research to find the 10 "best selling" books on the topic of Aging Parents (on Amazon). I have now waded through them all, and in this article I summarize my impressions of the different books, in the hope that you can leverage my work so you need only focus on the ones that seem most useful for you.
With titles that include phrases like Caring for Elderly Parents, or Dealing with Elderly Parents, these books tend to announce their point of view early on. And mostly the authors talk about either the challenges of filling that "caring" role, or the frustrations of "dealing with" the difficult person that their parent has become. Some of them are witty memoirs, and some rather painful unburdenings. And a few deal with the subject in a way that made me think deeply about some topics I had not considered.
I have to say my self-imposed reading task was a bit of a painful process. Even though I am intensely interested in the topic, I found myself having to slog through these. They are all rather depressing and far from enjoyable. Nonetheless, I found some of them quite rewarding.
Further down the page are some slides from a Meetup at which I went over my learnings in some detail.
Before getting into the details, though, I wanted to spend a minute commenting on the two very different approaches to this topic. Some of the books are all about Caring for Elderly Parents, while another group are about Dealing with Elderly Parents. These seem to represent two very different models of human interaction, heavily influenced by the specific inter-personal dynamics between the author and his / her parent.
What I found intriguing however, was that neither of these models really talk of the parent as a person or peer. Rather they are talked about either as a sort of "patient needing care" or as a "difficult person needing dealing with". While this does match well the general way that we in the USA deal with the elderly parent segment of society, I have to say I think it misses the opportunity to have a more peer-like interaction with one's parent as they grow old. The word I personally prefer is "help" rather than "care for" or "deal with".
I grouped the books I read into the following categories, each covered in the slides below.
- Encyclopedias (Caring for);
- Personal experiences;
- "Difficult" parents (Dealing with);
- The need to communicate;
- The Healthcare system;
- Financial stuff.
Dealing with Elderly Parents
This group of books was mostly about the challenges of dealing with elderly parents who have become "difficult" either because they were always a bit difficult, or more likely because cognitive impairment has exacerbated things. They include one very witty New York times best seller. I think you would find these most useful if you have a parent you think of as "difficult". Otherwise I am not sure they are so useful.
Caring for Elderly Parents
This group represents the meat of this book category in my opinion. In the slides below you will see there are a couple of what I call "encyclopedias". They are not really the sort of book you read from end to end but rather a reference that contains things like who you call when problem xxx happens. For those who see themselves as in some way becoming a 'carer", these might be a good place to start.
The remaining categories have lots in them too, and I suggest you browse the slides to learn more about them. My two personal favorites were those in the "Healthcare system" category.
Here are the slides I used at a recent Meetup to describe a brief reaction to each of the top ten sellers on "Helping Aging Parents".
My suggestions for where to start
Please read these comments while looking at the slides above, where the specific names of the books and more detail can be found.
The two books that fall into my category of "encyclopedias" seem like the place to start. I would suggest the book by Virginia Morris. It is a reference book for the shelf rather than something to read cover to cover. It reminds me why encyclopedias used to be so useful, although in the days of the Internet I have rather gotten away from using this type of encyclopedia.
I thought the two books in the category I call "The healthcare System" are well worth reading if you live in the USA and are not totally familiar with the byzantine aspects of our healthcare system.
The books in the other categories will be useful if you particularly want to delve more deeply into communicating, or the emotional aspects of being a caregiver, or just want to see how others have navigated the stage of life these books are all about.
The Books, and where to learn more
Here is the list of the top ten books (by sales rank) taken from my prior article. The best seller is at the top, with each lower row in the table selling progressively less in quantity.
Note: If you click on the title links, you will be taken to Amazon where you can read more about each book and buy them if you want. [Disclosure: If you end up buying one after clicking on these links, Amazon gives us a few pennies from their revenues.]
The Top Ten List (by Sales Jan. 8 2015).
|Rank||Title & Author|
Author(s): Roz Chast
Author(s): Virginia Morris, Jennie Chin Hansen
Author(s): Grace Lebow, Barbara Kane, Irwin Lebow
Author(s): Dennis McCullough
Author(s): Tim Prosch
Author(s): Edie Dykeman
|7||How To Say It (R) to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders
Author(s): David Solie
Author(s): Jane Gross
|9||The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent
Author(s): Barry J. Jacobs
Author(s): K. Gabriel Heiser
Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions
from Martha Richards (unverified) at Oct 25 2018 - 1:56pm
A very real problem in our current environment. We no longer live within shouting distance of our (us) aging parents. Divorced parents, living alone... add that to the mix. No onsite caregiver.
from Candiece Milford (unverified) at Sep 1 2015 - 5:54am
My hat off to you for slogging through this material. Your comments are valuable, even verging on funny (the one about finances.) It appears that most of these books are written with a similar mindset of the products that are being developed by younger people, without the insights of the older generation they are intended to address. Well-meaning, but falling short.