It’s beautiful and helpful and should be required reading for all of us as we age.
My friend texted this to me about Being Mortal (Atul Gawande), one of many books on caring for elderly parents, and the book she turned to time and time again for support and empowerment when she was caring for her mother, especially during the time she was considering palliative care. Becoming a caregiver for a parent can be an overwhelming and scary prospect. You’re already feeling so many emotions and trying to figure out how you’ll need to readjust your schedule. Where do you start? What should you be asking and who should you ask about it?
Medical professionals, family, and friends are all necessary and excellent resources, but books can be especially invaluable — particularly for those of us who find comfort in reading. Books, after all, help keep all the expert information in written form, all in one place — and you can carry them with you and consult them whenever it’s convenient. Books give you access to multiple perspectives and voices about a variety of caregiving topics, from medical information to advice on familial relations to finding peace after losing someone you love. Whether you’re looking for a title that reads like a practical guide, an empathetic friend, or something in between, here are ten books on caring for elderly parents.
Seven Keys to a Peaceful Passing: A Hospice Nurse’s Step-by-Step Guide to Hospice by Derek J. Flores, R.N.
Inspired by the author’s expert, professional experience as a hospice nurse, this step-by-step guide on the hospice system is both practical in content and warm in tone. Flores ushers readers through decisions they’ll need to make in order to help their loved one have what he calls a “peaceful, comfortable, and beautiful journey.” Flores also shares patient stories as well as his own experiences as a hospice nurse.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
The title recommended so highly by my friend, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, explores what it means to be mortal in this modern day. Gawande, an experienced surgeon, writes about what it’s like to age and die, how medicine has and hasn’t changed this, and where he thinks society’s ideas around death have failed us. In addition to sharing some of the experiences of his patients and family members, he also includes his own observations as a surgeon who’s accepted the limits of what he can do. Gawande believes that living a good life — all the way until its end — should be everyone’s ultimate goal.
Through sharing her own frustrating and heartbreaking journey of being suddenly thrust into caregiving for her mother, author Jane Gross shares valuable insights about what she wishes she’d known at the time. Gross, a New York Times expert on elderly care, shares how finding a general practitioner with a specialty in geriatrics should be first priority along with advice on working with Medicaid and Medicare, taking care of your own needs, and more. These are all the things she learned firsthand while she and her younger brother figured out how to move their mother into assisted living, to tackle seemingly never-ending costs, and to adjust to the demands on their time and mental wellness.
When Your Aging Parent Needs Help: A Geriatrician’s Step-by-Step Guide to Memory Loss, Resistance, Safety Worries, & More by Leslie Kernisan, MD, and Paula Spencer Scott
Respectful assistance and intervention is what geriatrician Leslie Kernisan, MD, hopes readers will be empowered to offer after reading this step-by-step guide to caring for elderly parents. Kernisan’s advice is practical, yet flexible, and includes insight on communicating with aging parents, safety concerns, specific tips for memory loss issues, and powers of attorney, among other topics. Readers will also find downloadable worksheets, symptom checkers, and checklists to bring with them to doctor appointments along with stories illustrating real-world scenarios. Through all of it, Kernisan emphasizes the importance of respecting a parent’s dignity and autonomy while reducing conflicts.
Taking Care of Our Folks: A Manual for Family Members Caring for the Black Elderly by Deborah Y. Liggan MD
When it comes to books on caring for elderly parents, not much has been written especially for the African American community. After observing that family caregivers in this community frequently find themselves at the losing end of the system due to lack of health insurance, Deborah Y. Liggan, MD, wrote a definitive guide just for them. In addition to helping readers find culturally competent healthcare, Dr. Liggan provides case studies on how major health issues affect this particular community. In clear, concise language, she provides up-to-date information on nutrition, pharmacology, technological advances, and self-help, so that readers come away ready to provide competent, but compassionate caregiving.
Tough Decisions In Care Of Elderly Loved Ones: Dignity I Safety I Quality of Life by Mahesh Moolani, MD
Readers who are currently caring for elderly parents will inevitably be faced with tough, life-altering decisions. Making such decisions requires time, work, energy, patience, and compassion. In this practical guide, Mahesh Moolani, MD, offers tips, real-life scenarios, checklists, possible solutions, and more. Topics covered include how to have conversations with elderly loved ones, accepting the deteriorating physical and mental health of a family member, issues that arise with particular conditions, living wills, advance directives, and more. Moolani also encourages providing the most empathetic and dignified care as possible, while also maintaining a work/life/caregiving balance.
Path to Peace: A Guide to Managing Life After Losing a Loved One by Angie Ransome-Jones
Much like caregiving for elderly loved ones, life after the loss of a parent is an overwhelming prospect that calls for balancing deep grief with the need to tackle urgent logistical challenges. When Angie Ransome-Jones lost her own father, she embarked on a journey of reclaiming her life, realizing purpose, and eventually, finding inner peace. In her book, Ransome-Jones shares her story, what she learned from it, and not only her own insight, but also the advice of an attorney, financial advisor, and grief counselor.
They’re Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy by Francine Russo
When searching for books on caring for elderly parents, readers who have siblings will want to consider this title. After all, caregiving for an aging parent can flip the family dynamic on its head. Suddenly, the children are taking care of the parents — and there will inevitably be misunderstandings and disagreements among the siblings. Who will make the decisions and how will they be carried out? How will caretaking issues be divided? What if unresolved childhood tensions arise? All of these topics and more are addressed in this book through advice from experts, real-life stories, negotiation techniques, and more.
Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents, Even If They Didn’t Take Care of You by Roberta Satow, Ph.D.
What happens when a reader is caregiving for an estranged elderly parent? The author of this book went through this very scenario and shares practical advice along with the experiences of herself and 50 other caregivers. Satow explores and analyzes the complex, conflicting emotions that arise in a strained relationship and also offers advice on establishing boundaries, finding forgiveness, sibling dynamics, the impact of caregiving on marriages, and more. The author’s own story suggests it’s possible, while caregiving, to work out unresolved issues and to even move toward mending a fractured parent/child relationship.
For readers who are inspired by others’ true stories, this title features narratives from several families who have gone through caring for elderly parents or loved ones. The author, an experienced journalist, chronicles all of the families’ journeys from first taking on caregiving roles to facing hard decisions to discovering the appropriate path for them. Although the process is never simple, many of the featured families end up finding great joy in their caregiving duties.
Stepping into a caregiving role will never be without complications, strong emotions, and logistical challenges; however, books on caring for elderly parents can lend support, compassion, and even some peace at a time when we need it most.
If you’re interested in exploring more genres of books on caring for elderly parents, consider these novels and graphic memoirs.