ICBioethics Blog 

Struggling with Caring for Elderly Family Members

Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)

Dealing with elderly parents is part of the cycle of life unpleasant to discuss. Family dynamics may change, but lifelong difficult relationships don’t necessary get easier. As children become caretakers and parents gradually lose their independence, all need specialized support and validation throughout this process. Healthcare systems and social services are often as challenged as caregivers in understanding what is the best support. There are no one-size-fits all, ready-to-wear solutions.

I recently read Roz Chast‘s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a memoir of her struggles caring for elderly parents. Chast, a cartoonist, chronicles her experiences with honesty and dark humor in comic book format—perfect for framing her frustrations and insights as she attempts to resolve the often unresolvable.

Surveying their collection of belongings as she cleaned out her parents’ old apartment made Chast look at possessions differently. And when Chast discovered letters sent between her parents during WWII, she saw them in a different light, as well. These humanized and individualized them, as it revealed dimensions of their younger lives, complete with hopes and dreams, long before aging . . . a bittersweet view for adult children embroiled in managing caregiving tasks while balancing obligations to their own jobs, families, and personal health.

I highly recommend this book. You’ll be faced with real, conflicting emotions, but you will recognize the commonality in this experience. Maybe as we become more willing to explore and talk about this (no sugarcoating allowed!), more genuinely helpful support services can evolve and become available. Many of us will end up needing them.

Mitch GennusoComment