Nov 1, 2012

A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents – And Ourselves

The ten pages of resource materials at the end are pure gold.

By Pamela R. Kelley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

You probably don’t feel like you have time the time or energy for edifying reading if you, like me, are at times overwhelmed with the weighty responsibility of giving love and care around the clock to one suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Some nights, staying awake through a half-hour of television is beyond me.

Yet we both find the time to check in on Dotty and Bob when a spare minute suddenly appears. I can’t begin to estimate how much learning I’ve done while looking over Bob DeMarco’s shoulder. I spent enough years in academia to think of Bob as the Dean of Caregiving. I was so lucky to stumble upon his blog early in my latest studies, working toward that Ph.D in caring for Audrey through this
brutal disease.

If Bob is the Dean, then Jane Gross is highly respected Senior Faculty. I encountered her writing in the summer of 2008, when she began The New Old Age blog on the New York Times website. The day before it debuted, I received the report from the neuropsychologist naming Alzheimer’s as the probable source of the moderate cognitive impairment Audrey displayed. The timing was perfect.

From the very start, I liked her frank expectation that most of us would try to do right by our parents through their final years. I liked her bona fides. She was writing with a bit of distance from her own mother’s death, and willing to throw back the curtain on how difficult caregiving could be for Baby Boomers like me.

When Jane Gross’ byline disappeared after many months, I was heartened to learn that she was on leave writing a book. When her byline reappeared last month with some excerpts from the book, I was relieved again. The book is A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents – And Ourselves. It was published Monday. I think I bought the first copy to hit Alaskan shores.

I raced through it in three days – not enough time to fairly review it. I didn’t takenotes; I didn’t annotate it. I couldn’t put it down. Every page held valuable, practical, unexpected information. Once again, I was learning by looking over the shoulder – this time Jane’s shoulder rather than Bob’s. I love to learn; it’s thrilling to me.

This isn’t a book that is specific to Alzheimer’s caregiving. Jane’s mother died after frailty claimed her, following a surgical procedure. It took a while. Through the process, her daughter learned about all sorts of things that I’m learning about now: managing relationships while giving care to another, realizing limits, recognizing systemic flaws in Medicare and Medicaid and long-term-care insurance, the benefits of professional advice.

Even though I know reading a 322-page book probably doesn’t appeal to many, I humbly recommend it to you. The ten pages of resource materials at the end are pure gold. My only criticism is that it doesn’t list the Alzheimer’s Reading Room.

Pamela R. Kelley is the full-time caregiver for her mother, after serving as her long-distance caregiver for more than four years. Before her caregiving role took primacy, Ms. Kelley directed an American Bar Association-approved paralegal education program at the University of Alaska Anchorage from within UAA's Justice Center. As she transitioned to full-time caregiving, she prepared a resource manual and presented lectures on long-distance caregiving to her UAA colleagues. She is a 25-year member of the Alaska Bar Association, and concentrated her years of active practice in the areas of commercial transactions and creditor representation in complex bankruptcy cases. Over the years, she has published many articles on topics as varied as cyber-stalking and antitrust law. Ms. Kelley lives, works and writes in Anchorage, Alaska.

Original content Pamela R. Kelley, the Alzheimer's Reading Room