Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How siblings can work together to care for their aging parents and themselves

Are you caring for an aging parent? If so, you have entered what author Francine Russo calls the twilight transition. “The twilight is not only a matter of solving practical problems and meeting practical needs. It is an existential crisis through which we will be transformed from the children of our parents to the elders of our family.” 

The aging, decline, and ultimate death of our parent is typically a time of family crisis, guilt, frustration, and caregiver exhaustion. But it can also be a time of communication and growth and healing in our relationships with our parents, our siblings, and ourselves. 

According to Ms. Russo, during the twilight transition  

our parent’s role will grow smaller, and ours will grow larger. We will not only care for them but also make decisions for them, bury them, and mourn them. We will inherit their property, their values, traditions, and history. . . .

These years of our parent’s decline are the final phase of the family in which we grew up. They are the transition to a new day, a new epoch in which we and our siblings will be the oldest generation of our family. In this transition, one, if not both, of our parents are here, yet not here, at least not the way they were. Our roles and those of our sisters and brothers need to change, but change comes hard. It’s all too easy for our emotions to be blown out of proportion. At moments, past and present can blend in disorienting ways. It’s scary. The end of our old family as we knew it is near; what the next generation will bring is unknown. . .

Not everyone will be able to make these leaps. But if we succeed, the payoff is profound. We emerge with a deeper, richer sense of self and of human life. We can accept the loss of our parents as part of the natural cycle of life and move forward with our own lives. And we are likelier to advance with an enduring and sustaining connection to our sisters and brothers in the next generation.

The above excerpts are from a wonderful book that can help families who are struggling through this difficult transition. They're Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy, is “a psychological and practical roadmap through this life-changing family transition.” It is based on years of research and discussion with geriatric care managers, psychologists, academics and elder law attorneys. But most importantly, Francine Russo interviewed dozens of adult children, mostly in their 50s and 60s, who were struggling to cope with the problems of caring for their aging parent. 

They're Your Parents, Too! is full of insights that should help any family though this difficult time: how we can connect as a family, get the support we need, keep our emotions in proportion, cope with dementia, deal with inheritance issues, and limit the hurt and guilt that are so often present. 

Francine Russo is a long-time acquaintance of mine. I think I can call her my friend. We have talked by phone and corresponded by email for the best part of the last ten years.  She does me the honor of quoting me in her book. But I have never had the chance to meet my distant friend in person.  Until now.  On May 5th Francine spoke at the Marshall, Parker and Associates 15th Annual Professional Update in Williamsport.  You can see a 7 minute excerpt from her presentation by clicking on this link
or you can paste the following URL into your browser: http://www.paelderlaw.com/2011_Prof_Update_Videos.htm.
They're Your Parents, Too! has been widely hailed as a groundbreaking examination of one of the most complex but ignored times of human transition. And it is so readable that it is hard to put down. 

Francine has been interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey show and Diane Sawyer on ABC’s World News Tonight.  Her book has been the subject of numerous articles The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, and many other newspapers and news-magazines.

For More Information on Francine Russo's 
They're Your Parents, Too!
Amazon Books Customer Reviews (They are all 5 Star!)
New York Times Article "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"
"They're Your Parents, Too" website

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