Books on caring for aging parents

As you know, sometimes I share lists with you that are first developed for a customer who inquires about what sort of books are best in a given field.  Actually, we don’t pretend to know the “best” but we do try to offer suggestions that are good for the person or group—best as we can tell—who has asked us. So, here are some recommendations for a book club, study team, or anybody wanting to think about caring for elderly parents, the role of mid-life adults taking care of their own dear folks.  By the way, we have a number of resources on aging, on older adult ministry, and a lot of good reading for elders who may want devotionals or reflections about growing older.  Just call us if you’d like or if you know anybody who might want something like that, written for an older readership.

These, though, as you can see, are mostly about caring for aging parents.  Hope it is helpful.

Caring for Your Aging Parent: When Love Is Not Enough Barbara Deane (NavPress) $15.99  This is well written and touching and insightful, if a bit basic.  A good number of years old, now, but it stays in print.  Balanced, thoughtful, interesting and helpful, from a clearly Christian perspective.  Some have said it has nearly revolutionized how they see their aging folks, and given them fabulous ideas on how to cope.

Changing Places: A Christian’s Guide for Caring for Aging Parents  Betty Benson
2354899.jpg Robertson (Beacon Hill) $14.99  Betty is a pleasant author, funny, known for her sensible Bible studies and evangelical faith.  This one also has a nice tone and while it is very practical, tells stories, shares the anguish of these times, and is based mostly on her own experience bringing an ailing parent into their home.  It gives lots of common sense ideas and is quite reassuring.


Family Squeezed: Tales of Hope and Hilarity for a Sandwiched Generation Phil Callaway (Multnomah) $13.99  You know the “squeezed” phrase, or the “sandwich” generation—between raising kids and caring for elders.  This reads almost like a novel, as he shares touching–but usually hilarious–stories of his own crazy family.  As he puts it, being middle aged today is between “the greatest generation and the gimmee generation.”  No wonder it is tricky, ” Money is tight and so are your favorite jeans. ”  Some call Callaway “Dave Berry with a message.”  Nice.

Taking Care of Parents Who Didn’t Take Care of You: Making Peace with Aging Parents Eleanor Cade (Hazelden) $16.00  This is not overtly Christian, but thought I should mention it as it could be important for someone out there.  Hazeldon is the AA publisher, and they are renown for doing things for folks in recovery.  Well, what if you were raised in an abusive or alcoholic or neglectful or controlling family?  How does one “make amends” on top of the obligations to care for aging parents.  This is a powerful story, a long-overdue look at a sad situation that is laden with possibilities of redemption for those who are willing…She offers a compassionate and realistic guide with lots of poignant stories.

My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing Slow Medicine, The Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones Dennis McCullough (Harper) $14.99  This is not a religious perspective, and some even think it is controversial, so some sharp folks might caringly reflect on it.  It is mostly about medical issues.  The author invites us to be proactive and intentional about health care and not await for acute or crisis situations that demand major medical interventions.  I’m not sure how one can always anticipate the complications, but this is a kind guide to thinking about the medical needs of our elders without going overboard and entering a health care system that may end up making matters more complicated and expensive and inhumane.  One reviewer called it “comforting in its compassion and detail.”

Caringformother.jpgCaring for Mother: A Daughter’s Long Goodbye  Virginia Stem Owens (WJK) $16.95  Oh, boy, get the tissues out for this one.  Beth and I were just awestruck by this when we read it as it so chronicled the exact frustrations and pain we experienced as my mother-in-law was in her last weeks in and out of hospitals, talking to too many doctors, medical confusions and institutional errors and less-than-attentive caregivers and the consequences of feeling marginal and helpless in this dear time at the end of life.  I devoured her prose, with tears and sighing too deep for words. Ms Owens is a great Christian writer (friend of Eugene Peterson and poet Luci Shaw) and these essays are powerful, essential reading—although may be too specific about end of life care of a dying parent that it may not be right for your group if you are seeking something about all sorts of aging issues.  Still, this account of caring for the dying and navigating the medical worlds is tender and passionate and beautiful;  this is truly a sacred story, set on holy ground, by one of our finest memoirists.  Very, very highly recommended.

181542.jpgA Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America Dudley Clendinen (Penguin) $16.00  Once again, this isn’t a faith-based book, so it wouldn’t be right for a Sunday school class, but it is one we couldn’t put down.  The author’s parents ended up in a retirement village—everything paid—in swanky Florida and as he visited often, he decided to do some investigative journalism and write a book about the inside scoop on this little enclave of the very old.  It is both hilariously funny, quite touching, truly interesting, pretty enlightening (who knew half of this stuff?) It unfolds like a novel, or a great bit of magazine reporting, and we were hooked on wanting to know what happens as these folks age, and as this author grew to care for this home full of characters.  This particular place (literally called Canterbury) may not be exactly the sort of place most of our parents end up, but the stories are remarkable, and we learned a lot.  Some colorful language, by the way, and a chapter on the sex lives at Canterbury.  Oh my…would make a great book club read, or a “end of the summer” beach book.

book_home.jpgA Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty Joni Eareckson Tada (Zondervan) $21.99  special sale price, $5.00 off– $16.99
 As we struggle with the pressures of care-giving, we get exhausted and weary and, understandably, begin to doubt the deepest things of our faith.  Here, a woman who has suffered much (and even know, in her pain-wracked days, has just announced her breast cancer diagnosis) has so much to teach us.  Joni is a very, very smart woman and has earned the right to speak about mature theology, harsh stuff, and the joy of serving God, even in times of great pain and hardship. This is brand new, very thoughtful, and we are please to be able to share it with you.  See the sale price, noted above.

Aging and Ministry in the 21st Century: An Inquiry Approach  Richard Gentzler
9780881775402.gif (Discipleship Resources) $13.00  While this is a handbook for thinking about ministry and I suppose is aimed at an audience of church leaders, any strong Christian might find it interesting to think strategically about reaching and serving and nurturing the faith of our elderly.  This is a truly marvelous resource; one Presbyterian consultant on the topic wrote “I have waited almost 30 years for this book to be written.”  For churches or individuals wanting to do ministry—and, really, that might be all of us if we care about the faith of our parents—this gives sociological insights, health-related stuff, chapters on spiritual formation, a bit on development issues.  It covers everything from the theology needed to understand dementia to worksheets for caregivers.  There is a chapter on how boomers view death and dying, and there is plenty to reflect upon for anyone curious, even if not planning an official launch of a new church-based ministry per se.  I like the balance of perspective and of practicality.  Very nicely done.

Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God  Paul David Tripp (Shepherd Press)
Lost in the middle_small.png $15.95  Tripp has written a great, Biblically-based book on parenting teens (Age of Opportunity) and is a Reformed scholar and counselor who emphasizes a strong role of the Bible as we care for one another in helping ministries.  (His Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands has the subtitle “people in need of change helping people in need of change.”) This is not really about caring for elderly adults, but it seems that, even though the Bible never exactly mentions “mid-life” it does offer great resources for those of us going through this time of transition. He believes that there is much regret and pain and unspoken conflict in this time of life (these days, especially) and offers the hope of the gospel which allows us to reflect on how we can renew our faith, find our way anew, and see more clearly how God can help us carry on.  He’s certainly attuned to family dynamics and such, so this is a very appropriate book for anyone in this season of life.

scan0005.jpgHannah Coulter  Wendell Berry (Counterpoint) $14.95  Memory of Old Jack was the very first Wendell Berry novel I read,  thanks to my friend the fiddler, Bob Buckingham, back in the early 80s and I’ve been a fan of Berry’s fiction and poems ever since. I have long intended to re-read it, now that I know even more about Mr. Berry and (through other novels) the friends and kin old Jack Beechum describes in that long-ago story.  Mr. Berry is known, perhaps best, for his incisive essays about place, land, the economies of scale, sustainable agriculture, creation-care, farm life, and such.  His love of rural life and a sense of place pervades his prophetic critique of bigness, modernity, progress and the false gods of growth and efficiency, but, almost as central, is this sense of “the membership” of a community, a network of family and friends and place, related, somehow, in unspoken troth.

 This “membership” thesis is described as beautifully and as tenderly and as realistically as ever in his novels, all set in the fictional town of Port Williams, KY.  Hannah Coulter has been through a lot–her first husband killed in World War II—and in her old age at the end of the 20th century she looks back over her life.  This telling of her life story rings true for many older women I know, raised on farms, children of the depression, watching their land and families divided by highways and college, and,  now, computers, and jet travel. This tender, insightful, wonderful story simply called Hannah Coulter is perhaps my favorite Wendell Berry novel, perhaps only surpassed by his well-loved novel of 2000, Jayber Crow.

I think the story of Hannah, and her clear voice, will help anyone of any age understand much of our elderly population as they recall their lives and prepare for their deaths.  Give it to your aging parents, and ask them, especially your mothers or grandmothers.  This is a gem of a book, and we simply could not give it a higher recommendation.

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2 thoughts on “Books on caring for aging parents

  1. Hello there,
    I am writing a book on caregiving for elders based on interviews with 60 women. I am looking at the broad range of issues these women caregivers experienced, especially the contradictions of care: the joy of giving; the sorrow of loss. I would love to be connected with you and share some of my story and the stories of these caregivers.
    Very best,
    Nanette Davis

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