Taking Care of Aging Parents

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dealing with aging parents is hard enough, but when siblings disagree over what to do, it can become even more difficult. Francine Russo talks about how siblings can work together to take care take care of parents. In They’re Your Parents Too! How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy, she discusses the decision-making process, division of property and responsibility, and how to avoid anger and angst.


Francine Russo

Comments [24]

Older mom, 56 now from New York City

I can understand why the author has a strong emotional investment in the idea that it really doesn't matter how old parents are. But it's worth thinking hard about this appealing idea.

I myself am the child of older parents. My mother was 37 and my father was 42 when they had me. My parents' age offered many advantages. The biggest was that they spent so much time telling me about their early years that I really felt I had lived through the 1930s and participated in a large slice of American history. This gave me a strong sense of identity very early. But it wasn't until I was 37 years old, and pregnant myself, that I really started thinking deeply about what it would mean to be an older parent with a young child.

With the generations so far apart, my daughter would never get to know her grandparents, who died before she was born. Nor was it likely that my husband and I would live to see her turn 50. Further, we would be close to retirement age, just as she was ready for college. How would we be able to pay for it and fund our retirement too? As members of the Baby Boom generation, we'd never given serious thought to these questions until it was too late.

As it has turned out, 19 years later, many of my concerns have proved to be on-target. Today, those financial questions loom like a dark cloud over our heads. In fact, sadder than I ever expected, my husband has been diagnosed with cancer and isn't expected to survive another five years.

Yes, we have been good and loving parents to our child. And our age and wisdom have enabled us to give her some things we might not have been capable of in our youth. But the price she has paid and will continue to pay for having older parents is a steep one. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn't have waited until I was 37 and my husband was 43 to become pregnant. After all is said and done, I've concluded that, just as it isn't responsible to have a child when you are 18, it isn't responsible to have a child when you are much over 35 either.

Sep. 27 2011 02:18 PM
Aging Parents from

This is true, dealing with aging parents is really hard to handle,and it was really important to take care for their health, but I have read some article from other site about how take good care for our health specially when getting old this might help us to recover this hard situation

Nov. 27 2010 02:24 AM
pat Odeaevans,RN from Chicago,IL

We have a great free resource for finding help for elderly parents it is 866-421-8266

Mar. 30 2010 12:55 PM
Cushla from NYC

My mother has Parkinsons, my father, the caretaker, had to go into the hospital for an unplanned quadruple bypass. I am the only daughter, and I'm inevitably the one called upon the most. My brothers and I aren't fighting, but I fear that the writing is on the wall. The very best advice I got was from my mother's neurologist, who said that often the best care comes from someone who is not a loved one -- to the extent possible, save the relationship, keep conflict, resentment, anger to a minimum and have better quality time together by having someone else do the heavy lifting. We hired someone to help out -- it has made a huge difference for everyone....Thanks for addressing the issue!

Mar. 02 2010 06:59 PM
Liz de Nesnera from Pompton Lakes NJ

Another great resource is the National Family Caregiver's Association:

I have been a family caregiver for 15 years (To my mom who had a stroke & is now 92 & wheelchair bound, and to my Dad who battled Alzheimer's for 8 years)

I refer to myself as an open faced sandwich: Married family caregiver with no kids! ;-)

Feb. 23 2010 06:34 PM
Eric Weis from Wayne, NJ

The sandwich affects not only families with siblings, but also those which include "only children". These singular types, of which I am one, have the good fortune to not have a brother or sister with whom to argue. On the other hand, there is the misfortune of having all the responsibility fall on one set of shoulders. And in my case, two aging parents are a tough sandwich in and of themselves, with only one offspring in between the slices.

Feb. 23 2010 05:26 PM
Barbara from Nassau County

Wonderful segment. I've worked as a home care nurse for 20 years assisting families(usually siblings) figure out how to adequately provide for their frail , ailing parents. It wasn't until my own mother began to lose her memory that I really began to understand the problems. Two of my sibs are out of state and one is nearby. He and his wife are wonderful helpers.. I also have adult children who are very fond of their grandmother and they pitch in too. I don't waste time or energy on those family members who don't help. I am doing whatever I can to keep my mother safe and comfortable. I ask for help when I need it and I try hard to enjoy having her still here!
Best advice-plan for your own old age and save your money. Care is expensive!

Feb. 22 2010 02:20 PM
Janice from NYC

The author said that everyone needs to do only what they are willing to do to help their aging parents, but what if nobody is willing to help? In my family, my siblings looked the other way and went on living their own lives. If I had done that, too, then my parents would have had nobody helping them. In my opinion, we are responsible to and for each other in families and "just doing as much as you are comfortable with" is merely letting yourself off the hook. Arranging care for aging parents shouldn't become a game of hot potato where whoever is stuck when the music stops has no choice but to get burned or let the potato smash to the floor.

Feb. 22 2010 02:00 PM
Loretta from Yonkers

Elder Mediation is a wonderful tool for bringing siblings and other interested parties together to work through some of these issues.

Feb. 22 2010 01:57 PM
lanvy from nyc

it's important to note that how we care for our parents during time of need sets examples for our children for when we need their care.

Feb. 22 2010 01:56 PM

How do you deal with paid aids and other professionals that tune into family dynamics and complicate care?

Feb. 22 2010 01:56 PM

Sibling who are not local can relieve the local sibs of a lot of the administrative duties: bills, balancing medical bills, etc. etc. etc.

Feb. 22 2010 01:54 PM
Mike from nj

#########please as her about*************what to do when my parents didnt take care of me and now my syster wants me to help since Im in a better financial situation ... thanks

Feb. 22 2010 01:54 PM

When my mother became ill, my brother, who was married, but lived closest to my parents, told me that I had to come "home" and take care of them...At the time,
I was single and living in Germany.
Later, when my father needed more care, it fell to my sister and me to do the "heavy lifting" ... back to the old stereotypical roles.

Feb. 22 2010 01:52 PM
robert from new york

can ever an elder person who doesn't want to be a burden to the family take his/her own life. would it be ever possible in our society? don't we have the rights to our bodies?

Feb. 22 2010 01:50 PM
Jan from long island

The wild and wooly diatribes between my sister, brother, and I (my sister walked out of the funeral director's office, leaving my brother and I gape-mouthed; she didn't want to have a funeral, refused to go...etc.)...have finally settled down after eight hairy years..but it was the ultimate in emotional turmoil. It has shown itself in my husband's family, as well. I'm not sure I want my sons to have to go through this...aaargh.

Feb. 22 2010 01:48 PM

I am the youngest of six. I left home at 18 and now at 47 I don't feel that I have to dedicate my mid life to assisting ailing parents. I do love them, however my older siblings moved in and out of the home, borrowed money, left their children for my parents to watch while they worked or traveled. My wife and I have no children and do not live in the same area as my parents. Some say I should feel guilty and ashamed. Well, I don't. My parents are in their mid 80's and just may out live me and my siblings. They refuse outside help or to relocate to assistant living condos. So it is what it is.

Feb. 22 2010 01:48 PM
Daphna from The Upper West Side

What about when one of the siblings is still dependent emotionally, socially and financially on the aged parents? How do the other siblings deal with the dependent sibling?

Feb. 22 2010 01:46 PM
JoanL Cornish from Warren, NJ

As a geriatric nurse practitioner who specializes indementia I want to say that one person cannot take care of one person with dementia 24 hours a day. It is unfortunate but often the caretaker is angry with siblings who are unable to help yet resaistant to the fact that they are no longer able to care for their parent because of the seriousness of their illness. Often they have made promises to the parent that they will never put them in a nursing home and yet sometimes that is what must be done.

Feb. 22 2010 01:43 PM
Hugo Freed from Manhattan

Mom has Parkinson's an is in a nursing home, Dad has Alzheimer's and is being cared for at home. Only brother is on disability and requires my care and attention as well. Thank goodness I have the best wife in the Universe who has shouldered this unreal burden with me. Great show!

Feb. 22 2010 01:43 PM
Christine Sotmary from Westchester, NY

BINGO! Asking about the Caregiver (not just the care recipient) sharing the emotional burden, (not necessarily the work) and most importantly showing thanks and appreciation to the Caregiver are great suggestions. I have been howling at the moon about these ideas for several years now and am very happy to hear it expressed on this show. My memoir Living on the Verge of Insanity is all about my feelings as being the Caregiver for my partner Alan during intense times.

Feb. 22 2010 01:42 PM
sara from astoria, ny

Ms. Russo is talking about my family "we shouldn't have to ask you to help" defines them. When my mom was sick my older sister and brother pushed me aside in organizing mom's care. Then they grew angry when I didn't drop everything for mom like they did, which essentially was fight over who "cared" more for mom by giving up the most. Now my relationships with my siblings (both older) is strained to non-existent and despite my apologizing for "being selfish," at my mother's request, things are just awful between us all.

Feb. 22 2010 01:40 PM
Jennifer Hickey from Flushing, Queens

My husband and I are the primary caretaker of his elderly, disabled mother. This was expected since we do not have children (my husband is the youngest son).

Feb. 22 2010 01:39 PM

The "Sandwich" generation is a misconception.
Taking care of an ailing adult is not the same as taking care of one's child.

Feb. 22 2010 01:35 PM

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