Tuesday, April 18, 2017
I had mentioned a new book on Monday at the bottom of my post, congratulating the authors, Naomi Cahn and Amy Ziettlow. The book, Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss is published by Oxford University Press (April 2017) and runs 240 pages. The book is available to order from a number of book sellers. Last week the authors wrote on the Institute for Family Studies blog explaining the background of and catalyst for this book. Homeward Bound: Lessons on Modern Families and Elder Care
In 2010, we began the Homeward Bound project, hoping to study the intersection of modern families and elder care because we saw, all around us, how elder care is changing. Seven years later, it is exciting to see the results of the project in the form of a published book, Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss, and to share some of what we learned in this post.
The catalyst for the project was a conversation with a dear friend of ours, Julie, whose Baby Boomer parents are divorced; each parent then remarried and divorced again. One of Julie’s ex-stepparents—her ex-stepmother Tina—was about to undergo critical surgery, and Julie didn’t know what to do. Tina had been married to Julie’s father for 15 years, starting when Julie was a toddler. While Julie was growing up, she spent holidays with her father and Tina. After the divorce, Julie no longer visited Tina, but they remained in regular contact by phone and email over the years. Julie fondly remembers how Tina mothered her during childhood illnesses and crises, and she felt some responsibility for Tina, especially since Tina had no children of her own. However, Julie felt overwhelmed as she thought of handling all of the medical, financial, and legal caretaking that her parents, stepparents, and ex-stepparents would need from her as they aged. Julie, who also has two young children, explained that she simply was not prepared financially or emotionally to care for all the people who might need her—and she felt alone in her worries, with few resources and little support.
So that explains the reasons and inspiration for the book. As far as what the authors learned, they explain the 3 lessons:
- Families shape the quality of the elder care and grieving experience of grown children...
- Formal planning helps facilitate a positive experience.... and
- Families rely on medical, legal, and religious professionals to begin and guide the decision-making conversation in a way that is catered to their unique structure....
But, overall they learned there is room for hope but a need for action. "Many family members showed great resilience in finding ways to understand each other, to work together to each contribute something to the care process, and to decide that they would remain a family after the death of one of its members. In other families, the lack of shared norms and an absence of experienced professional support meant that caretaking and grief became a time of division, rather than unity. But, as we also learned, the time to plan is now."
Congratulations Naomi and Amy!