By Grady Harp(This review appears as it was written in its entirety originally posted on amazon.com)
For those of a certain age group the three words of the title will recall hours of warm feelings absorbed from the media some years back. For some reason that show and the feelings it engendered come to mind when reading Stefania Shaffer’s classically wonderful book 9 REALITIES OF CARING FOR AN ELDERLY PARENT. Yes, there are many books available that teach readers the logistics of preparing a home for, feeding, clothing, nursing, arranging, signing DNR papers, the legalities for that final time in an elder’s life when life stops and business goes on. But the difference here is that this is a book about love, relationship, wildly humorous incidents, trying moments, the practical aspects of ushering a parent through the labyrinth of final months/weeks/days/hours that end in death. THAT is why this is a book that is a must read for everyone – whether parents have died already and now friends need the same support, or as a resource to share with people who are approaching this time in the lives when parents depart.
Shaffer happens to be a teacher (English Language Arts) and had a highly successful career in television advertising before that: in other words, she knows how to discuss (read `sell’) ideas to a reader and she has the gift to make that information into eloquent prose.
But praise gets us off the track of reviewing this book. In this indispensable volume Shaffer takes us through every step of caring for the progressively downhill sliding of a parent’s journey toward the end and she does it in a journal type fashion: she has been through all this with her own mother. She tells us from experience how to make the decisions no one wants to discuss until that last minute – how to `clean house’, make a home safe for the elderly, how to manage such things as baths, poops and pees, caring for minor (and major) injuries, how to find the right doctor, how to deal with meds, how to tolerate (be supportive) of live-in or visiting nurses, how to converse when so many synapses are missing in the parent’s communication processes, planning ahead for the inevitable (hospice/total home care), funeral, estate issues, keeping track of all the necessary information for posterity and legal reasons, etc.
But most of all this is how to cope with the gradual weakening and mentally distant parent, how to share love, how to stay close and enjoy each moment of the time left. In other words, how to continue the role of parent child love even when the roles are reversed. Stefania Shaffer did it and she warmly tells us how. Highly Recommended if not imperative reading! Grady Harp, October 13