Stefania Shaffer, Profile


9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent-Memoir

Were you a KGO caller during the Ronn Owens show about “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent”?

Did you get your KGO question answered on the Ronn Owens show about “9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent”?

If you missed this radio show, here is the link for my interview on KGO NewsTalk 810: 

Yesterday was an exciting day for me as the guest author on the Ronn Owens show. He has been the voice of SF Bay Area news for 39 years and his callers are loyal listeners. Their questions were intelligent and all included a sense of urgency wondering what we will all be faced with soon enough, “What to do when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves?”

I have received emails since the show that I will share here in case any other readers have the same situation. If you are aware of any other resources, please do reply to this blog so we can post your answer within. Additionally, I want to add a couple thoughts for callers who did make it on air, since radio moves so fast and my answers are limited before the next commercial break.

The first caller asked, “What can we do about the in-law who lives in a remote area with no family around?”

Answer: One of the biggest problems facing seniors is isolation. Their social circle is diminishing. They may be outliving their friends. They may not drive anymore and need to depend on others for rides to activities. As a senior ages, doctors’ visits increase. Even for a relatively healthy senior, there are many rotations for regular blood work, hearing checks, eye appointments (especially if macular degeneration is diagnosed), bone density tests (especially if falls are a pattern). Ailments progressing to specialists will only add to the constant running back and forth to doctors that becomes part of a routine in senior care management.

Does the remote area offer a good hospital, or would you need to drive two hours to get to the medical facility that would be treating the problem? If there are no relatives nearby, is there a good neighbor who is close enough to regularly check-in, or to notice the newspaper hadn’t been picked up in a couple of days. If your answer is no, and I honestly do not recommend putting the job of caring for your elderly relative onto a friend because of all that is involved, can you consider relocating to move in with your in-law? If a secure job would be lost, then have the hard conversation within the family, including the senior, of moving her into your home. Remaining with her own loved ones is less scary than moving into an assisted living facility, and a lot less isolating.

If you are raising children at home, you are part of the sandwich generation that is caring simultaneously for elderly parents while raising kids. That is a double whammy. There will be strain, but in the end, the privilege of caring for your elderly parent and knowing you did everything possible to keep her safe, healthy and happy will certainly help you sleep better at night.

An email I received after the show asked, “What can I do to help my alcoholic mother who refuses to leave her home, but cannot be alone because she keeps falling?”

Answer: This makes everything about caring for a senior doubly hard. An alcoholic in a fit of rage is not dissimilar to the Alzheimer’s patient who is throwing things and cursing at loved ones. Check Al-Anon in your area since they offer support to the family and loved ones of the alcoholic. They may even have suggestions as to how someone can spell you on your mom’s most difficult days. The email goes on to say how desperately son and wife need a break but are afraid to leave her. I know there are agencies that offer companionship to seniors on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. They will not distribute medications, but can oversee that the senior has taken her pills if the dosage is already set aside in a cup. They will never be allowed to do any injections, so diabetics requiring help with insulin shots will not be a good fit for their services. Sleuth carefully. This is not a resource I have used. Are there any friends, neighbors, or church members who can get on a rotation of visiting so you can take the break you desperately seek and most definitely deserve?

Finally, making sure all of those legal documents are in order will be critical if you are to ever have control over health decisions on her behalf or paying for medical bills because of a broken hip from a fall. Look into these four: 1)Will; 2)Trust; 3)Durable Power of Attorney for Health (the Advance Health Care directive; 4)Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. Without these in place, the court will be making the decisions for your mother, not you.


What three little words from critic Grady Harp reduced this author to happy tears? “I remember momma.”

“I remember momma…”

October 1, 2013

By Grady Harp 

(This review appears as it was written in its entirety originally posted on

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

Preface for 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent

Preface In Part

Dear Gentle Reader,

I imagine you are holding this book today for one of two reasons. Either you have been ignoring that nagging question of what will happen when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves. Or you are already at the front of it, or in the middle of it with one or both of your parents. If you have no idea what to expect, this is the book you need now. The guideposts herein will prepare you for what’s ahead. They are the nine realities every adult child should expect when coming home to care for an elderly parent until the very end.

If you are at the front, I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing now and the pain and fear your beloved parent is experiencing too. I am just so sorry. It is quite unnatural for humans to be made to look on while the person you love, who always fixed things for you as a child, is looking at you now helplessly waiting as his or her life unravels.

This will be a gut-wrenching experience for you. I was in your shoes, but I didn’t know it. I only knew my mom was falling a lot, but she always managed to pick herself up, dust herself off, and keep her sense of humor intact. We were not on speaking terms when I got her phone call asking if I would come for a visit. I hadn’t seen her in several years, but by the time I finished that first weekend at her house, I knew she could no longer be alone and that I would be the one to fulfill her wish that she die in her own home whenever the time came.

My mind began racing with questions: How will I purge a home filled with decades of clutter while preserving childhood memories? How can I make her money last, and where are all of her assets? What is this filing system of hers that keeps mail tucked under beds and stuffed into shoeboxes on shelves? What legal documents are still not in place? Is she simply being forgetful, or are we dealing with the warning signs of something worse? What are her wishes to be carried out after her death? What will make her happiest today?

And much later I would be asking other questions. How can I make her comfortable? How much time do we have? How can I possibly say goodbye?

I wish someone had prepared me for what I experienced in this undertaking. I would have still said yes to the job, but I would have had a better idea of what the job entailed. Nobody says yes to firefighting, or nursing, or the FBI, or the army without asking a few questions upfront about what a typical day at work is like. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was also joyful. Yes, it was scary, and hard– absolutely the hardest bullet point I can now list under “work experience” on my resume. Yes, it was my privilege. Yes, I did it because I knew no one else could or would, and because I believed my father would have wanted to know his beloved wife of fifty-four years was not going to have to go it alone.

At the time, I had only the capacity of mind to imagine my mother and I would have fun every day until she would go to sleep one night with a smile on her face and simply not wake up the next morning. I could not conceive of it any other way. She was mobile, and alert, and I had never known her to be sick or hospitalized in my forty years. Within five years of my arrival home, she would die at my side.

Now that you are ready to go through it and you want a look–a gritty look–at the realities of caring for an elderly parent, this book will help you. Its nine chapters deal with the early topics like how to keep your parent safe in their own home to middle chapters revolving around waiting for death and the important role bowel movements and bedsores will play in the end. The final third of the book deals with the aftermath, including funeral arrangements that are predesigned, and managing as the executor trustee of the estate. Grief counseling for the adult orphan is the last chapter.

Designed to be an indispensable guide for all decision makers in your family, consider sharing this book with them so you will all be on the same page.

A wise man once told me this would be a thankless job. No truer words were spoken.

Email me if you need moral support.

Available now on
Click here to buy the Kindle Version.

You Are Not Alone In Caring for Your Elderly Parent, Help Is On The Way From AARP

Are You Lost In The Chaos of Caring For Mom Or Dad? Look No Further, AARP’s Resource Guide Is Just One Click Away.

Hindsight really is our best teacher. I only wish I had known then what I know now about caring for an elderly parent. I did a great job, but I ran myself ragged because I did not have any outside resources to inform or relieve me. I am on the tail end of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964) so I have not yet had reason enough to peruse AARP’s website for myself. Therefore, I just didn’t know what they had to offer and how instrumental they could have been in answering the questions I had, and seeking support from others who were experiencing the same. I felt very much in it alone.

After my mother died, it wasn’t until much later when I started writing about caring for an elderly parent that I came across the new and improved AARP website in all of my research. The first article I read was from the CEO, A. Barry Rand and it was filled with heart as he connected to readers by sharing his personal experience of caring for his father during the last eight years of his life. He says, “It was one of the most difficult…rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life.” I completely felt his pain as he recalled for all of us what a daunting job it is, full of challenges and rewards.

What Mr. Rand took away from his own experience of caring for an elderly parent has served a purpose in benefitting the other 45 million of us grappling with the issue of what to do when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves. His first mission was to revamp the AARP website to include resources and information in one spot where caregivers could be connected to experts and organizations easily. AARP launched the  Caregiving Resource Center in early 2013. After spending hours upon hours to get a sense of what it offers, I have several places wherein you will find invaluable information.

1) Blogs-I have found many useful questions answered and am starting to know the style of Bloggers and which authors I look forward to following. One of my favorite people no longer appears, but Sally Abrahms is relatable having been there done that, and Amy Goyer who currently cares for both of her parents, blogs  about weekly conversations she hosts with a group of professionals about the issue of the week. It is an easy forum to participate in, even just silently if you prefer to read the string of comments instead.

2) Prepare to Care Booklet- This is the godsend I wished I had access to when I was collecting all of the data I needed. I got it done, but I was figuring it out the hard way and reinventing the wheel. AARP has since created forms at the ready that you can print for free and fill out easily with samples to follow. Imagine knowing up front ways to get help paying for prescriptions, or where to plug into coalitions of caregiving in your area.

It will save you tremendous time to download the booklet that covers five easy steps so you can start having the conversation now, while everyone is still healthy. Get prepared with knowing what legal documents are still not in place. We are never guaranteed our number of tomorrows. Our lives are not going to slow down. You will be hit with the surprise that one of your parents has become ill, then what? Avoid regrets. Start your planning today. For more about my own experience, 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind will be an essential companion for the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end. It is a funny, compassionate, and daunting account slated for release August 2013. Available at

Blog question: Which AARP website resource have you found to be most helpful?

Your Checklist for Keeping Your Senior Safe at Home

How Do You Determine If This Is Forgetfulness or Something Much Worse? Know The Warning Signs To Keeping Your Senior Safe at Home.

When she flung open the front door to heartily greet me after a long period away from home, I did not need a professional to give me a checklist in order to know what was staring me in the face: my mother was no longer able to care for herself.

The thought registered like a blip on my radar, but I needed proof that these suspicions were correct.

I quickly gleaned from the tour of the house that all was not right within these walls. She was living in filth and clutter, and not just the kind that can be reconciled by making a bed and tidying a sock drawer. The term elder neglect came to mind.

But, I did not want to overreact.

I tried to talk myself into believing that maybe my mother was just unkempt today, an unusual departure from the years I remembered when dressing was a hobby she took seriously.

Other relatives had been coming and going and I never heard them sound the alarm. Aside from her appearance, and the neglect of the house, I witnessed that weekend what professionals will tell you are the first warning signs that your senior is not safe at home.

What I was seeing with fresh eyes was the lifestyle relatives had become blind to. Even friends weren’t privy to what went on behind that front door. I came to find out that my mom insisted on waiting for them on her front porch. People outside of the family just weren’t that close to the situation.

People inside the family just couldn’t see what was staring them in the face all along. In research I’ve read, passive neglect is not unusual; adult children of an elderly parent can be in denial that their parent needs as much care as she does.

To recognize that Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves would mean you are responsible for providing a solution. If you don’t, there is CPS for seniors, known as APS, Adult Protective Services, an agency who will protect your parents if you can’t.

Here is the Home Alone checklist from the Aging Solutions website which you should monitor regularly, especially as changes begin to occur with your elderly parent. If your answer to any of these questions puts your parent at risk, it may be time to get more support in place.

1)Will your parent turn on the stove and forget to turn it off?

2)Does your parent understand how to leave home if necessary? Where the door is located? How to exit the building?

3)Will your parent stay home or near the house rather than wander off?

4)If your parent goes outside, do they know how to get back inside?

5)Can they identify signals, such as smoke from the kitchen or fire alarms that would alert them to potential dangers?

6)Do they know how to access emergency services? Do they know how and when to dial 911? Would they be able to communicate over the phone? Can they physically get to the phone no matter where they are?

7)Do they have frequent life-threatening medical emergencies that require immediate intervention? Do they know where their medication is located? Do they have the capacity to select the right medicines in the correct amounts?

8)Does your parent have the judgment to identify who they should and should not let into the home? Will they know to allow family, friends and emergency personnel into the home?

9)Can your parent get to the bathroom and use the toilet on their own? If not, have alternatives been worked out?

10)Are they afraid to be alone for an hour or more? Do they become clingy when caregivers depart and make frequent telephone calls if they are alone?

Too many of my answers during this first weekend visit convinced me my parent was a high-risk for living alone. So, we made the decision together that I would move back into my childhood home to care for our mother until the very end.

What I learned from this experience is the subject of my new book, a funny and compassionate account, with guideposts for the daunting role every adult child coming home to care for an elderly parent should know.  9 Realities of Caring for An Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind, released in August 2013.

The Companion Playbook, is the workbook streamlined from the Memoir, chock-full of checklists and task sheets for the busy caregiver to begin doing today. June 2016. Both available at amazon and kindle.

Blog question: Which warning sign has you the most worried?

It Bears Repeating: Mom-isms You Heard Your Whole Life

Can’t Get That Nagging Voice Out Of Your Head? But, Oh, How You Will Miss It When She’s Gone.

We grew up with that voice of hers nagging us to clean our room, or unplug our curling iron, or re-wash the dishes—properly this time. She had advice on everything from make-up, “Take off the mascara, pinch your cheeks,”—to wearing clothes, “Start with one smart piece, then accessorize, the rest can be bought from Penney’s.” Mom-isms.

We’ve all got them stuck in our head, rolling around like loose marbles on a pinball machine until, before you know it, one drops to the finish line and comes shooting out of our mouths.

When I find myself in states of heightened stress, I hear her famous words heaved along with my exasperated sigh, “Oh my goodness gracious me, oh my.” It usually comes attached to the times when my two-inch binder filled with the lesson plans for this month spills across the floor. What’s funny to me is the look of amazement on my students’ faces. They act like they have never heard such a term before, especially not coming from someone who looks so young and hip, of which I keep reminding them, I am certainly neither.

“I never met a person I didn’t like.” And the explanation for this is because “it’s awfully hard to dislike someone who likes you, that’s why I like everybody.” She was sure savvy.

Her positive mental attitude came in this soundbite of encouragement, “You never know what’s around the corner and it just might turn out to be something pretty good.”

Of course, the famous one that I heard more than I cared to in my surly teen years, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face,” never made sense to me, but these were the Mom-isms with which I was raised.

She had a repertoire for any question.

If I picked the movie that would probably be more to my liking than hers, I could always count on a reply of, “Sure, I’m good-natured.”

Anything I ever posed that required more serious thinking was invariably met with a supportive, “Why not?” I loved that my mom was amiable in almost all situations.

For the times when she would put her foot down, there would be no mistaking it because she bellowed, “I’m putting my foot down!” I can’t imagine I would have as much success if I borrowed this remark for my own use today. But it does make me recall with fondness the times when she emphatically tried to win some point with child or father.

Since her death, I can’t seem to get her voice out of my head. Her Mom-isms have seeped in so deeply, I feel like she is in my backyard calling me outside to “get some Vitamin D for twenty minutes.”

I can practically see her in my kitchen, peeling an orange, or a cutie, saying, “I’m having my citrus for the day.”

Anytime I ever felt tired from the exhaustion of life, I would hear, “I believe in naps,” as she would encourage me to lie down.

For the times that something troublesome would rear its head, she would be sure to repeat as often as needed, “I believe in positive thinking.” She sure did.

“Suit yourself,” felt more like she was going along with it under duress.

The one that bears repeating is the one I aspire to use more often, “I’m agreeable.”

This is what made her so easy to get along with and oh, how I miss the face, the shrug, and the endearing smile that came with it.

Blog question: What are the Mom-isms you will remember the most long after she is gone?

9 Realities of Caring For An Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind

You moved home to care for your elderly parent, now what? Your answer is here.

It became clear to me when I returned home for a visit with my elderly mother that there would be no escaping the question of what to do about Mom. The time had come, the signs were obvious. She could no longer manage to be alone in her big home. The chores, the mail, the bills, the lawn, the cats, the  care of what needed to go into her, had all gotten to be too much for her to handle on her own.

After seeing the condition of each bedroom, four of them being used as attics, along with her Master which was a perfect picture in a “before and after” makeover scenario, hers being the “before”, it took me only a weekend of uncoiling messes left behind from ants, cats, and other critters to realize that I would be the one who would become caregiver for our mother.

We all knew her greatest wish was to remain in her own home for the duration. Looking into her worried pale blue eyes, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t give to keep her feeling safe in her home and well cared for the rest of her years ahead, so I gave up everything to move back into my childhood home.

My mind began racing with questions: How to purge a home filled with decades of clutter, while preserving childhood memories? How to make her money last and where are all her assets? What is this filing system of hers that keeps mail tucked under beds and stuffed into shoeboxes on shelves? What legal documents are still not in place? Is she being forgetful, or are we dealing with the warning signs of something worse? What are her wishes to be carried out beyond her death? What would make her happiest today?

And much later, I would be asking other questions. How can I make her comfortable? How much time do we have? How can I possibly say goodbye?

I wish someone had prepared me for what I experienced in this undertaking. I would have still said yes to the job, but I would have had a better idea of what the job entailed. Nobody says yes to Firefighting, or Nursing, or the FBI, or the Army without asking a few questions up front about what a typical day at work is like. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was also joyful. Yes, it was scary, and hard, absolutely the hardest bullet point I can now list under work experience. Yes, it was my privilege. Yes, I did it because I knew no one else could or would, and because I believed my father would have wanted to know his beloved wife of fifty-four years was not going to have to go it alone.

The realities of what I learned are chronicled in my second book, a non-fiction narrative called 9 Realities of Caring for an Elderly Parent: A Love Story of a Different Kind. Slated for release in August 2013, this is a funny, compassionate, and daunting account of what you can expect if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end.

Designed to be an indispensable guide, it will help you through nine chapters dealing with early topics like keeping your parent safe in their own home, to middle chapters centering on waiting for death and the important role that bowel movements and bedsores will play in the end. The final third of the book deals with the aftermath, including funeral arrangements that are pre-designed, and managing as executor of the estate. Grief counseling for the adult orphan is the last chapter.

I am so sorry you have to go through it. But, my intention in writing this is that it will be a support to you if you have no other.

Blog question: What do you wish you had known before assuming the role as caregiver to your elderly parent?

Paying Tribute to Organizing Guru Peter Walsh With This Closet Makeover

A Closet Full of Clothes but Still Nothing to Wear? Reinvent Your Wardrobe with this 2-hour Closet Makeover.

The trick about closet makeovers is that the high gloss magazines make them look so attainable. Look closer. All of the clothes in the photograph are monochromatic in a neutral shade of ivory, or beige, paired with six white collared blouses that hang sparsely next to one another with at least two inches between them, lest they be touching, giving the unforgiving impression that they have no room to breathe.

I remember being a teenager, sharing an overstuffed closet with a messy sister, who intentionally pushed my buttons by strangling my clothes as she smashed them up against the left side so she could fit another new stash of tops she would only wear once before going shopping again. I felt bad for my clothes that were made to suffocate in order to support her weekly habit, so I understand what the magazine editors and the photographers are looking for in a photogenic closet, but realistically, what woman can subsist on six interchangeable outfits made of khaki, white, and black?

When I came home to care for my elderly mother, I found several bedroom and hall closets being used for her seasonal wardrobes. The problem was she had no place to wear these dresses, or outfits bought decades earlier that no longer fit. She was agreeable to a slow purge, focusing on the one Master closet today, so I began huffing out clothes by the armful.

In order to do an effective clear out of any room, professional organizers will tell you that at least three staging areas are mandatory: Keep, Toss, Donate. Organizing guru Peter Walsh, who has gone from TLC’s Clean Sweep to acclaimed fame, earning a rightful place in O, The Oprah Magazine with quarterly features, is the king of closet makeovers. His ten-minute brass tacks sit downs to help hoarders figure out what the stuff symbolized and took place of emotionally was my favorite part of his show. There is my shout out to Peter Walsh. Read him in Oprah, and check out his site.

My approach is no different. The best way to sort a closet is to pull out everything at once. Set a timer, giving yourself a two-hour window and have your sorting crates in order. An old piece of luggage you want to donate, or a sizable box, or a Hefty sack can be used to stuff inside the clothes you no longer wish to keep.

In determining what to keep, ask yourself if you feel amazing in it, and if you happen to get compliments from others, that’s a bonus.

My favorite supplies needed for setting up a good closet space are always the same:

1)Beige suede hangers, the thin kind. This will help to create a uniform look, and maximize the hanging space you have; bulky wooden coat hangers that curve have no place in a lady’s closet.

2)A good shoe organizer is key and the benefit of trial and error keeps me coming back to the same one: a vertical hanging style with twelve shoe-boxed sized compartments. Metal shoe racks on the floor, or hanging pockets over the door all end up hogging precious real estate or become buried beneath a sea of clothes, thus making your shoes inaccessible.

3)Storage boxes with lids. I always pick a couple of oversized hat boxes to contain clutter, or keepsake cards. Lids are key, you don’t want to see the mess. It disturbs the zen of your new closet.

4)A double hang rod is essential for keeping shirts and blazers above skirts and folded trousers below. If you are really Type A, you will correlate your wardrobe so like colors hang above like colors.

Finish your wardrobe by re-inserting dresses together according to color, style, sleeve length; special occasion dresses come next; then swing coats; then winter coats, if you don’t have a hall closet.

With all of your clothes hung according to style, and color, you have a better idea of what to shop for next, and what to avoid doubling up on.

Your dinger should be ringing just about now.

Blog question: Which item was the most difficult one to say goodbye to in your closet purge?

Sobering Statistics in Elder Care

Are you worried about providing elder care for your senior parents?

Let’s open with some sobering statistics that you cannot ignore for much longer. The number of people caring for an aging parent has soared in the past 15 years, according to MetLife. In 1994, 3 percent of men, and 9 percent of women, helped with basic care for an aging parent; In 2008, these numbers increased to 17 percent of men, and 28 percent of women providing help which is defined as dressing, feeding, bathing, and other personal care needs. This goes well beyond grocery shopping, driving parents to appointments, and helping them with financial matters. And it is more stressful as well. In 2011, nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 provided this care for an aging parent.

In a deeper look at options available for seniors with limited finances who cannot stay in their own home because they are unable to care for themselves anymore, USA Today reports that most families are unprepared for the news that Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care. The median cost of a year in a private room at a nursing home in 2011 was $77,745, according to Genworth. Assisted Living is another option, but it’s also not cheap and isn’t covered by Medicaid. The national median cost in 2011 was $39,135, by Genworth’s count. With 90 percent of elderly parents preferring to stay at home, from AARP research, families are left with the agonizing question of who will be stepping up to care for Mom or Dad.

As more people live into their 90’s, most of us will face caregiving responsibilities, or need caregiving ourselves. AARP says 45 million Americans perform some kind of caregiving. After A. Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, experienced caring for his own elderly father, he began addressing the daunting problem of caregiving by building the AARP Caregiving Resource Center in January 2012 where caregivers can come together to find experts and advice through local agencies. What starts out as just helping our parent can quickly turn into a full-time job.

I was not at all thinking the job would fall to me. Until it did.

I had no idea the call was coming, but my mother’s invitation to visit opened my eyes to the pitfalls of seniors living alone in a home they can no longer manage. It was enough for me to uproot my life to fulfill her wish that she live out the rest of her years in her own home.

No one prepared me for this undertaking and what I learned has become the subject of my new book 9 Realities of Caring For An Elderly Parent: A Love Story of A Different Kind, a funny, compassionate account of your daunting role if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end. Released August 2013 and available at

Blog question: How did your life change when you took on the role of caring for your elderly parent? 

Who will be taking care of Mom or Dad?


Still Got Your Head Stuck In The Sand When It Comes To Senior Care?

Have you been avoiding the nagging thought of what will happen when your mom or dad can no longer care for themselves? This is a question plaguing more than 45 million of us this year, according to AARP in an article from November 2012.

As more people live into their nineties, most of us will face caregiving responsibilities, or need caregiving ourselves. This can include meal preparation for older or impaired adult relatives or friends. Maybe you are the thoughtful neighbor taking lasagna to the woman who lives alone at the end of your block. Do you know how she is eating the rest of the week? Maybe you are the friend who takes her to the grocery store once a week because she can no longer drive. Do you know how she is preparing meals?

Maybe you are the adult child who lives nearby, popping in twice a week. When you leave, do you know if she has a tendency to nap while the kettle has been left abandoned on the stove to melt all over the burners again? Who will be taking care of your elderly mom or dad? Sadly, this is not a job for the faint of heart. Or the neighbors. Or even the best friends.

There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors that neighbors and well-meaning friends cannot see. Most adult children cannot even recognize when their parent’s needs require a different kind of care. We are so accustomed to our parents fixing everything for us there is a sense of denial taking over. We don’t want to “see” the condition that our parent is living in if the cats they love so dearly have become more  than they can manage, as evidenced by the little piles of defecation hidden in corners of the living room. If we become aware, then we need to be part of a solution, and this is scary because our lives are about to change dramatically.

These nine realities come from my new Memoir, 9 Realities of Caring For An Elderly Parent: A Love Story Of A Different Kind,  released August 2013 and taken from my personal experience in caring for my mother during the last five years of her life. They are the bits of advice no one prepared me for in this undertaking that I learned the hard way. I share them here with you in a funny and compassionate account of what you can expect from your daunting role if you are the adult child coming home to care for your elderly parent until the very end.

Blog question: What was your first clue your mom or dad needed care?