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How to Care for Aging Parents

How to Care for Aging Parents

5.0 7
by Virginia Morris, Robert M. Butler (Foreword by)

Featured on Oprah and Good Morning America, winner of the Books for a Better Life Award, and hailed as an "excellent resource" by the Family Caregiver Alliance, How To Care For Aging Parents is completely revised, updated, and expanded, with nearly 300 pages of new material. Compassionate and thorough, it is a caregiver's bible.


Featured on Oprah and Good Morning America, winner of the Books for a Better Life Award, and hailed as an "excellent resource" by the Family Caregiver Alliance, How To Care For Aging Parents is completely revised, updated, and expanded, with nearly 300 pages of new material. Compassionate and thorough, it is a caregiver's bible.

When love is not enough—and, regrettably, it never is—this is an essential guide. Now more than ever.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
"A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion."
The Washington Post


From the Publisher

"A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion."
The Washington Post



"This guide, aimed at the "Sandwich Generation," provides a road map to assist adult children in caring for their aging parents. Combining personal experience with expertise in healthcare and social and political issues, Morris has produced a thoroughly researched, well-organized, and comprehensive manual. Chapters follow in logical progression, yet they can stand alone and be read on an "as-needed" basis. The topics covered include the concrete, practical areas such as home care, finances, nursing homes/hospitals, legal issues, and medical/safety concerns as well as the psychosocial areas of handling emotions, dealing with death and dying, sibling conflicts, and spiritual needs. In her discussions, Morris adds useful details such as a suggested list of things to pack for the hospital. Support for the caregiver as well as to the elderly person is covered. Sprinkled throughout the text are agencies, phone numbers, and other reference information."

"A must-read … [Morris] thoroughly addresses the subject, covering most topics imaginable from standards such as exercise and healthy diet to uncomfortable ones such as STDs, Alzheimer's, and delusions and hallucinations.… Her frank approach manages to be both compassionate and direct making the most awkward or devastating topics manageable."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

Product Details

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

On Care-giving:

"If there was such a thing as Care-givers Anonymous, the first step in the program would be to get rid of that little voice inside you that says, I can do it all, I am responsible for everything, and whatever I do, it's never enough.

Of course you want to make your parent well, make her happy, make her safe. In fact, if it were possible for you to be with her every minute of the day, perhaps you would be, But the truth is that you can't personally do everything that needs to be done for her, and trying to do so will only exhaust and frustrate you without really helping your parent over the long haul.

So how do you use your energies most effectively? IF your mother has a sudden and severe illness, of course you'll want to be there. But when her needs are more chronic, when you find yourself taking on more and more responsibility over a matter of months or years, you must step back, take a realistic look at the situation and draw some boundaries for yourself. Determine what you can reasonably do for your parent and, more important, what you have to stop trying to do. As hard as this is, you may be surprised to discover that setting some limits will relieve your guilt and ease some tension. And you will have more patience and energy for those things that only you can give.

"For a long time I visited my mother twice a week, but I was always running and always tired. I started to dread each visit and I was angry at her because I felt it was all her fault. She was ruining my life. Then a friend said to me, 'This isn't her fault. It's your fault.' And, you know, she was right."

- Fran M.

On Medicaid and Nursing homes:

There is a myth a that anyone who is on Medicaid will automatically receive inadequate, unacceptable nursing home care. It's true that the plushest nursing homes do not accept people on Medicaid. It's also true that most other homes limit the number of Medicaid patients they will accept. But plenty of attractive, well-mannered nursing homes accept Medicaid patient - about one third of all nursing homes have at least some Medicaid patients.

Remember, an expensive nursing home isn't a guarantee that your parent will get loving, devoted care, just as a run-down exterior doesn't always mean shabby care. Appearance is an important clue to what kind of service is provided, but the quality of care comes from the people who work in the facility - the philosophy of the administrators and the devotion of the staff.

Many of the residences that accept Medicaid favor self-paying patient and admit only a small number of Medicaid patients. A nursing home with 200 beds, for example, may admit only 15 or 20 Medicaid patients at any given time. Consequently, to get your parents into one of the better Mediciaid-certified homes, you need to get his name on waiting lists early or help him set aside enough money so that he can apply as a self-paying resident. If your parent has some savings - enough to cover at least six months of nursing home care, and preferably more - he will have a far better chance of being accepted by the home of his choice. Once he is admitted, he cannot b e discharge when he goes on Medicaid, even if those beds set aside for Medicaid patients are full.

Once your parent is in a home, you can see to it that he gets the best care possible by establishing a rapport with the staff and monitoring his care closely.

On Dementia:

In the early stages, it is difficult to distinguish between dementia and benign aging. The symptoms of dementia can b e fairly innocuous at first and most people compensate for minor metnal slip-ups with reminders and notes, or they find excuses for their erros. Oh, I'm sorry about our date. I was sure we said Tuesday. Social skills are usually the last to go, so during short visits a person with early dementia may seem perfectly fine. He may chat about old times, and remember who's who and what's happening. Families and friends, who don't want to believe that something might be wrong, are more than happy to dismiss a slightly disheveled appearance or a few memory lapses.

At some point, however, the problems become hard to ignore. The dementia begins to interfere with relationships and the details of daily life, such as shopping, paying bills or selecting clothing. Your parent might lose a particular skill - an avid crossword puzzle fan may have trouble filling in the blanks, a lifetime golfer may fumble over selecting the proper clubs.

If you suspect dementia, think carefully about what your parent was like before. Are these problems really new or did you simply fail to notice them earlier? All of us are far more aware of memory slips in older people than in younger ones. When Grandpa loses his hat repeatedly an alarm goes off, but there isn't even a second thought when a teenager keeps losing his.

Generally, in dementia, a person's memory doesn't just slip in, it disappears. He doesn't simply miss an appointment, he insist he never had one. He doesn't just lose his glasses, he forgets that he wears glasses. He doesn't forget who spoke at a meeting, he doesn't know he ever went to a meeting.

In addition to memory problems concerning specific facts, a person with dementia may easily become lose or disoriented, even near his home or in another familiar place He may have trouble with language, so he will grope for the right word, use the wrong word or resort to gibberish. His emotions may become heightened and irrational, and unpleasant personality traits can become amplified. He might also become accusatory, critical or uncharacteristically aggressive. He may have trouble sleeping. And he is likely to have trouble concentrating, reasoning and making decisions. Whatever the symptoms, they usually grow progressively worse.

Good Grief:

Your parent is gone. He was old and sick, and it was probably time. Yet the loss is jarring. Your world has changed. A big piece is missing.

Grief rolls in like a series of waves, washing you in sorrow, confusion, anger, relief and regret, It may pulse through you evenly or crash down on you when you least expect it. If you were close to your parent, you may feel as though your very core has been assaulted and that life will never be the same again. In fact, it won't be. With time, the hole will grow smaller and less painful, but a bit of it will always remain.

You can't control your grief, shake it off or speed it up, and you shouldn't try. Grief is a necessary and valuable process that allows you to accept this loss, say good-bye to your parent and move on with your life and other relationships. It is not something to race through or escape from. Allowing yourself to feel it in your own way and at your own pace.

"I have kept myself so busy since she died, perhaps because there ahs been so much to do, perhaps because I want to be distracted. But now I find myself crying sometimes when I'm driving home from work. During that quiet time alone the reality sets in that she's not here anymore."

- Nelly O.

Excerpted from How to Care for Aging Parents. Copyright c 1996 by Virginia Morris. Reprinted with permission of Workman Publishing.

What People are Saying About This

The Washington Post
"A work of great value, written with sensitivity and wisdom...It fulfills an obvious need better than anything I've seen."
—Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.

"A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion."
The Washington Post

From the Publisher
"This is a tremendous work... truly excellent. It will be a great help to many people."

—Ronald Miller, M.D., medical director, geriatric assessment center at Yale- New Haven Hospital

Meet the Author

Virginia Morris lectures on the topic of aging parents around the country and has been featured on a host of national media. She testified about eldercare issues before the U.S. Joint Economic Committee and is also the author of Talking About Death. Ms. Morris lives with her husband and two children in Sag Harbor, New York.

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How to Care for Aging Parents 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everything you ever wanted to know about parent-care and were afraid to ask.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A truly multi-faced resource, with great insights for reconciling the viewpoints and needs of the older relative, the caregiver and siblings and their spouses. The options for care are well explained and then specific listings and suggestions are given. This is a reference which will be valuable as health needs change. Recommended for anyone with older relatives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the most wonderful book that I have ever picked up. A must have for anybody with an older parent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be so helpful. It covers every topic imaginable and in a practical yet sensitive manner. I think there were only 1-2 chapters I did not read because they didn't pertain to my situation. I bent page corners and highlighted passages throughout--there were so many things I wanted to remember and share with family members. Among other things, this book left me with a much deeper understanding of my father's dementia and how to cope, an appreciation of the dynamics that occur between siblings, and a hightened awareness of how important it is to also take care of the primary caregiver. The resources listed in the back of the book and throughout are invaluable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book covers every topic you can imagine. Want to know what to do when your parent is driving, but should not be driving any more? This topic is covered, plus many many more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JMarcell More than 1 year ago
This is one of the first books I bought when I began my caregiving journey with my elderly parents and it helped a lot. It is one of the eldercare staples all adult children should have in their library! -Jacqueline Marcell, Author 'Elder Rage', International Speaker on Eldercare & Alzheimer's, Host 'Coping With Caregiving' Internet Radio Show at wsRadio