A journalist’s report on adult children and elderly parents who needed help
When Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions. Springboard, 276 pp., $23.99.
By Janice Harayda
Ilze Earner spent weeks looking for a doctor who would accept Medicare after her elderly mother moved in with her in Claverack, New York, a hamlet in upstate New York. That may have been the easy part.
Earner’s mother, Milda Betins, later refused to take her arthritis medication, saying, “Medicine is poison.” She missed her Latvian-speaking friends back at her retirement community in New Jersey. And both women wondered how to deal with to Ilze’s father, who had dementia and lived in a nearby nursing home. When they visited, he called his wife “a whore” and said, “Leave me alone.” How should they respond to comments from a man who had severely impaired “executive functioning,” the ability to make decisions?
“Everyone reminds you that this is not your father talking, it’s the disease,” Ilze said. “But how do you separate the two …?”
Paula Span devotes more than 20 pages to the story of Ilze Earner and Milda Betins in When the Time Comes. And that’s typical of her approach in a book that follows several American families as elderly parents consider options that include home care, a nursing home, assisted living, and hospice. Books on caregiving often have bland and sanitized care studies by therapists that barely suggest the challenges involved. This one comes from a former staff writer for the Washington Post Magazine who brings a journalist’s eye for detail to stories that are complex, realistic and interesting.
You can also follow Janice Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter.