San Diego Author On The Challenges Of Caring For Aging Parents
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / December 11, 2019
In his new book, "Raising An Aging Parent," San Diego author Ken Druck examines the dual challenges of parenting and caregiving.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Tens of millions of Americans now find themselves faced with the prospect of having aging parents. Many of them are in the so-called sandwich generation, caring for children and aging parents. At the same time, a new book by Del Mar, author, dr Ken Druck, raising an aging parent, looks at how the children of aging parents can deal with the challenges of aging parents in healthy and beneficial ways. Dr Druck, welcome. Good to be with you, Jade. As I said, the title of your book is raising an aging parent. Why the term raising rather than caring for,
Speaker 2: 00:34 well, you know, raising is elevating. We raise our children, we're not trying to disempower them and you know, make them dependent. What we're trying to do is raise them up. We're trying to elevate them and that's what we want to do with aging parents as well. We want to raise them up so it's not raising in the sense of diminishing them, even though, you know, we all realize that sometimes the challenges of having an aging parent that you love it are great and that sometimes we need to take care of them and the roles reverse that they, we end up taking care of them.
Speaker 1: 01:09 It would seem that there are some parallels between raising children and caring for aging parents. What are some of those parallels that we might not think of?
Speaker 2: 01:17 Yeah, you know, it's great. You know, we, all of us who had been parents realize that you can teach your child learned helplessness. You take over for them, you do it for them, you do everything for them. You don't include them in the critical thinking, in developing options that they can think about what's the best, what are the consequences. And so it's similar when you have an aging parent who's facing, you know, whether it's time to move out of the family home or whether it's time to increase their, their visits to a doctor, whether it's time to look at their finances and things like that. We don't want to disempower them. We want to have inclusive conversations with them and help them think through what the best thing to do is going forward.
Speaker 1: 02:01 You know, some of us in that so-called sandwich generation are caring for aging parents while doing our best to raise a family of our own. And what are some of the biggest challenges faced by those of us that are in that sandwich generation?
Speaker 2: 02:14 Well, the biggest challenge is that we don't take care of ourselves. We work ourselves into a state of exhaustion and depletion, frustration and, and sorrow. Because you know what? There are parts of having a parent get older that are sad and difficult. You know, they, they, they have lost the younger version of themselves. Perhaps they're retired. Perhaps they are a little bit lost in their life about what now? How do I restore a sense of purpose and meaning, you know, and maybe we're so busy with our own lives that we feel guilty. We're not spending enough time or they're not getting to see the grandchildren enough for things like that. So self care is a premium. We have to upgrade the operating system for self care to professional grade self care. And that doesn't mean we go out and get a Manny had penny. It means that we truly do the things to fill our own cups.
Speaker 2: 03:11 We say no to the things that right now at this point in our life, we have to say no to and we say yes to the things that allow us to feel restored and rejuvenated. So you really have to be focused and prioritize, uh, you know, do all those things. We can't be nice and we can't be that type II woman that we are who does everything for everybody else and has never learned to, to really put herself on the priority list and say, you know what? I need to take care of myself. I need to say no to that. I need to go out. I need to go for a walk. I need to turn on soft music. I need to take a bath. I need to set some limits with my parents because sometimes parents don't realize that they are draining and depleting us and we need their help.
Speaker 2: 03:56 So sometimes being direct, having direct forthright communications with our aging mom or dad is what's going to help us out. It's going to help us balance everything out with all of the demands put on our time by both aging parents and our own children. Uh, what's your advice to avoid burnout and just feeling overwhelmed? Yeah. Well the first thing I think we have to do is take inventory and realize, Hey, my neurotransmitters are afraid. I'm singed at the edges, I'm burning the candle at both ends. We have to take honest inventory and realize, you know what, I'm tired. I'm really, I'm functioning on fumes and I need to do something to take care of myself. And once we realize that it's time to do that, then we need to put a list together of, here are some things I can do to take better care of myself.
Speaker 2: 04:44 Here's some things I can do to drain myself even more. And here are some things I can do to make things better and we can become the smarter, more time efficient, better version, more communicative version of ourselves. And sometimes it's even asking a sibling to get involved. Sometimes it's getting a caregiver involved. Sometimes it's facing into a difficult decision that our parent is having made, having trouble with by asking the family doctor to be in that decision or the family attorney. If we have somebody a resource like that. Disagreements between siblings there are fairly common. Do you have any advice for how siblings can overcome those when they're dealing with aging parents? Well, we know that this is a time siblings can either destroy their relationships or they can grow closer together. The rawness of some of the things that happen, the emotional rawness of things that are happening and changing and the challenges we're facing with our aging parents can either result in us coordinating and communicating, talking and respectful tones to our brother or sister and and taking the drama and the stress out of it by working together for our parents' best benefit and, and sometimes that means age old rivalries and Oh, I'm the family hero or you're the family slug.
Speaker 2: 06:03 It's, it's dropping all that old stuff and rising up and realizing we have an opportunity to grow closer as brothers and sisters and an inservice to our parent who really needs us to work together right now. And now that we're headed into the holiday season, some adult children might be facing their first holiday season without their parents. Do you have any advice for how to deal with that specific kind of grief? Yeah, that's, you know, that's one of the tough parts is that, you know, Le impermanence is a condition of this life and how do we continue, uh, have something in, in my book about the six honorings. How do we continue to honor those we love in the way that we carry on. And one of them is to continue to do things that they would have loved. So, you know, if you're facing your first holiday season without a parent or a loved one, you know, keeping their memory alive in a variety of ways is the way to do it.
Speaker 2: 07:04 They live on in the love that never dies. They live on, in our hearts. They live on, in our memories. They live on in so many ways, and we need to focus on them living on in those ways, in honoring their lives and spirit by keeping them in the room, keeping them in the family, keeping their memories alive. How should parents talk to their children about their aging grandparents? We are an example to our kids of how we treat our parents, and guess what they're watching and they're at some point with, you know, God willing, they will watch us get older and they're watching and they're going to remember in some way, whether we showed our own parents love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, and humility, or whether we tried to take over and boss them around and, and, uh, disrespectfully or we rendered them invisible. And the importance of them being seen and valued and included cannot be overestimated. I've been speaking with dr Ken Druck. He's the author of the new book raising an aging parent, which is out. Dr [inaudible], thank you so much for joining us. So good to be with you. Thank you.