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About The Book

Book Cover - Aging Is a Family AffairExcerpt from the back cover: “When someone in your family grows older, you discover how important it is to discuss difficult and painful issues. Unfortunately, the issues that demand the most from caregivers — diminished health, loss of independence, demands on the caregiver, forgiveness, end of life care, and wills and funeral arrangements — are often the ones families work hardest to avoid. In this life-changing new book, Mary Ann Massey, marriage and family therapist and host of Woman to Woman Live, gives you clear and practical techniques you can begin using immediately….”




Video Introductions of the Book


Table Of Contents

Family Speak: The Case for Talking with Aging Loved Ones Sooner Rather Than Later 5
1. “Unfinished Business I”: Dick must care for his estranged dad who has fallen and can no longer live alone.
2. “Unfinished Business II”: Dina was molested by an uncle under her dad’s watch and has held it against him for 20 years; he is dying and begging her to visit.
3. Next Door Grandma: Neil’s mother lives independently next door to her son and his family on property they bought together when Neil’s dad died.
So Many Choices: Honoring Differences and Expanding Options 21
1. “Long-distance Daughter,” Joan, although emotionally abused by her mother over decades, was delegated by siblings to become the primary caregiver of her mom when Alzheimer’s disease rendered her incapable of self-care.
2. “No Longer Waiting for Dad to Die”: Paula was a full-time social worker when her mom died, leaving her 87-year-old dad in need of care. She quit her job, and moved 500 miles to care for him in the family home. It seemed her only choice. Decades of discord dissipated over two years as she found her voice and set firm boundaries. Her gift: a long-awaited “I love you.”
3. Keeping a Spouse at Home – “I can’t do that to my husband,” Nancy lamented, when her friends suggested it was time to choose a nursing home for her husband. He deteriorated rapidly over three years from Parkinson’s disease but pleaded with his wife to keep him at home. Her decision would have injurious effects.
4. The Freedom to Change your Mind: Mary felt guilty over choosing to bring her failing parents to a nursing home near her family when they could no longer live independently. Her anguish was augmented by her dad’s shock and deep sadness that she would ‘abandon’ them. Mary gave them much attention, despite caring for five children and a husband. After her dad died, she brought her mom into her crowded home.
CANDID CONVERSATIONS: Trusting Each Other With the Truth – Even if it Hurts 39
1. Opening the door – The First Conversation: At a friend’s urging, Ed engaged his aging parents in a groundbreaking intimate exchange about health directives and treasure sharing on his next visit to their home.
2. “I’ve never stood up to mom before,” Carol proudly exclaimed. She was gentle-spirited, timid, and the only child of a feisty 90-year-old mother. Carol reached a breaking point when her mom asked the impossible, forcing her to take a stand for her mother’s safety.
3. Asking for Details: “Mom, what do you want to wear in the coffin?” my priest friend asked his mother on her deathbed. Tender, honest love permeated their dialogue.
4. When the Door Slams Shut: “I won’t talk; don’t ask me!” cried Denise’s dad. Dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), he was unable to talk with his daughter about his end days. He had never revealed his inner thoughts to her; he couldn’t do so now.
EXPERIENCES WITH PROFESSIONAL CARE: Parenting a Parent Who Can No Longer Live Independently 57
1. “After the Fall” introduces us to Great Aunt Jane whose children wanted very little to do with her when she could no longer live independently; they tucked her into a nursing home, visiting for Christmas and later, her funeral.
2. Dealing with Guilt: “Please tell me it’s not my fault” was Linda’s plea to anyone who might free her from consuming guilt. Her bi-polar, self-centered mother’s daily commands almost broke Linda’s spirit, until the need for nursing home care gave them a second chance.
3. When One Aging Parent Cares for Another: “If you won’t go to a nursing home, I must!” was 75-year-old Millie’s resignation to her weakened health after caring for her overbearing and bitter husband, wheelchair bound for five years. An unexpected breakdown would eventually send Millie to a nursing home to repair mind and body, a painful nine-month process.
WHERE WILL DAD (or MOM) LIVE? Knowing Our Strengths and Limitations 74
1. The Challenges of Living Under the Same Roof: “Whose house is it anyway?” Margie shouted in an angry outburst to her 90-year-old dad over his obstinate ways. After two years of sacrificial care, Margie needed to make his home more her own; it had been her house to manage and to clean, but it was not her house to redesign.
2. “Determined To Do It Alone” is the sad story of Karen’s parents-in-law who refused help to the bitter end, and their passive, frightened adult sons, who were unable to take a stand. Karen alone exposed their unhealthy, dangerous choices to the medical world who, after a year, mandated their transfer to a nursing home.
3. In-Town Caregivers: Bob and Sandy offered their elderly, mentally and/or physically challenged family members much loving care, all in their 90s, yet able to live independently, because of their special care.
DOING THE RIGHT THING (whatever that is): From Prescribed Scripts to the Wisdom of the Heart 88
1. Too Much Help: “Don’t treat me like an invalid!” is the voice of 80-year-old Tess, who refused to move to the country with her daughter and husband when they retired there. She claimed her autonomy well into her 90s, drove until she was 97, and passed on at 100.
2. “Small Town – Family Support” retells my grandmother’s initial steps into independence after her husband died. She was 72 and chose to live alone for 12 years, near her siblings, but 200 miles from my mom and dad. Her courage defined her decisions, which dad concurred were right for her.
3. “A Daughter’s Long-Time Hope” is about Sally, an only child of a self-centered, outspoken mom, and her quest to earn her mother’s love. Doing the right thing led to some hard choices that eventually evolved peace with her mom.
SIBLINGS: Shared Genes, Differing Values 101
1. When Long Distance Siblings are Close and Local Ones Distant: This anecdote describes Bill and Suzy’s inability to work together for their parents’ benefit. No one knew why Bill, who lived near his folks, kept his distance except during Suzy’s visits, or why he sabotaged her in the end.
2. Love in the Face of Dysfunction: This is a tale of two sisters, Jill and Donna, and their very ill, alcoholic mom. Jill stood up to her mother and was cut out of the will; Donna enabled her mom and regretted it later. The sisters’ love kept them together.
3. “The Family Meeting: When a Parent Takes Charge” is about Victoria, a grand lady, smart and articulate, independent and newly retired. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but her kids sublimated their fears, even after she was rushed to the hospital a third time. The ‘meeting’ she requested led to extraordinarily productive Family Speak.
4. “The Twins: A Story of Loyalty,” introduces us to Jack and Tom, who were very different. One was sharp and professional, the other confused and mentally challenged. This is Jack’s story of love and care for someone whom others might have left by the wayside. Brother to brother, he would not let that occur.
SAYING GOODBYE OPENLY: Sharing the Sacred Journey 120
1. Marie’s Story: This is my mother, a deeply faithful, holy woman, who openly shared her faith, her fears, her hopes, and her life.
2. “A Tale of Two Families” introduces us to Charlie and then to Nan. Both took charge, planned a parent’s funeral, and assigned their siblings different roles. One family was relieved; the other felt imposed upon.
3. “Misguided Loyalty – We Can Never Protect Ourselves From Death” is Chuck’s story even though it’s mostly about his wife, Annie, and the heavier-than-normal burden she carried in the days prior to her mom’s funeral. Chuck tried to protect her and in doing so learned a life lesson.
SAYING GOODBYE PRIVATELY: Silence on the Sacred Journey 132
1. Fred’s Story: This is my father’s story. He was a private, internal man to the end.
2. “”Mommy, may I climb into bed with you?” is Eileen’s question to her mother who has just suffered a severe stroke. “Yes” her mom’s eyes blinked; then Eileen climbed up on the bed, cuddled and sang to her mom hours before her death.
3. “Will You Pray Over Me?” Jim asked his ex-wife Margaret as he lay dying of emphysema.
4. “Daddy, can you hear me? I’m right outside.” This daughter’s fears prevented her from entering her dad’s room the full week before he died.
NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF DEATH: Stories From the Final Days of Life 146
1. “Samantha’s Change of Heart – Dad’s Gift” describes how compelled Sam was to reconnect with her dad, after a three-year estrangement, and to be by his side during his last agonizing year of life.
2. In “Deathbed Reconciliation,” Dan travels across country in the hopes his dad might apologize for years of cruelty when he was a kid. What he received was different than he expected, but it was enough.
3. In “A Vision of My Mom as God Intended Her to Be,” Gail was gifted to see her mom as God intended her to be, not in the dysfunctional ways life left her. This epiphany changed everything.
4. Final Recognition: “I know who you are,” Fran’s mom said to her in a rare moment of clarity and kindness before she died, “you are my daughter.” Fran had given up hope of finding her mother’s heart; this word gift would be memorialized in a photo of their hands touching, taken by her husband who watched from the doorway.
THE SUM OF ALL STORIES: Connected Forever 159
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