Eleven years ago, Dr. Michael Gordon, Canada’s leading geriatrician and then head of geriatrics and internal medicine at Toronto’s world-renowned Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and I had the first of our Parenting Your Parents book series published in Canada. We were way ahead of the curve with the book; the issues around aging and eldercare in the family just weren’t on people’s agenda, or even in most cases on their radar.
Our second co-authored edition of the book appeared in 2004, which pushed it into the best-sellers category, and then an American version followed in 2005.
In bookstores across Canada and the United States on September 21st is what’s officially called the third edition of the Parenting Your Parents book series, titled Parenting Your Parents: Straight Talk about Aging in the Family published again by Dundurn Press.
So what’s so important or pressing about aging in the family?
For one thing, it’s a familial and societal reality. Demographics are demonstrating that beyond a doubt, an ever-larger percentage of our population is nearing and exceeding the age of 65. And an amazing number of them still have at least one parent and often two living parents who are in their 80s or even their 90s.
At the same time, the actual cases of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are soaring across North America and globally among those aging parents, meaning that we’re facing potentially more difficult challenges on the near horizon.
And those in the 45-65 age range are most vulnerable to the consequences of aging parents while aging themselves.
Few make plans.
Various research shows that more than three-quarters of those with aging parents have never sat down with them to understand their latter life wishes and build plans to achieve those wishes. And as a rule, they haven’t created an inventory of critical information regarding bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement funds, and the like.
So not if, but when, something goes wrong with either parent’s health, there’s more often than not nothing in place to help things move ahead as smoothly and flawlessly as possible.
What we need to know
Our new book offers 24 case histories that range from early elder issues, like hip replacement, to later issues like dementia, nursing home conflicts and eventually death in the family. Each case history has its own geriatrician’s viewpoint of what the family might want to consider doing in the specific situation being presented, with options and implications.
What Michael and I have observed over the years is that families with aging parents and other loved ones in fact need to know more about what kind of issues and challenges they’ll probably have to face and then, what to consider and what to do. However, that’s something most families opt not to do.
As I like to remind people, our aging parents are in denial and their boomer kids are in avoidance.
Every family and its dynamic is different and so likely will be the outcomes. But the core issues are usually similar enough that readers can learn from the case studies offered in the new Parenting Your Parents.
Vulnerability index, resources
Unique to this edition of the book is a Vulnerability Index that asks the reader to score a series of specific statements about the current state of either parent. The total scores lead to a guide as to where one’s parents may be at the moment in terms of their vulnerabilities and what actions might be considered.
The goal of the Vulnerability Index is to help readers determine what they should be doing with and for their parents right now.
As well, there is a financial planning section that addresses both Canadian and American financial planning issues and challenges for aging parents. It explores everything from the status of banking accounts and insurance policies to RRSPs to RIFs and beyond.
There also is a fulsome Resources Directory that covers both Canada and the United States in terms of helpful major organizations providing services across the spectrum of needs of aging loved ones.
Facing the facts Aging in families is real; it’s happening across Canada, the United States, and around the world. Our aging parents and other loved ones seek our support, actively or often passively. We know it, feel it, and truth be told, often just don’t know what to do or how to do it best.
Visit us at www.parentingyourparents.ca
It’s never easy, but it’s always possible if we plan ahead and put our minds to it.