Parenting our Parents

Katie Couric
Global Anchor
Katie's Take

Katie's Take

If you are currently caring for an elderly relative, you are certainly not alone.  Recent surveys indicate as many as 42 million of us are in that situation, and from health care decisions to navigating the world of assisted living and nursing homes, it can all be a little overwhelming.

In this episode I talk to Bruce Feiler, a New York Times columnist and best selling author, about the things we all need to know before we're confronted with this increasingly common life experience.

As Bruce says, "It's much more difficult to bring down a parent than it is to bring up a child." Aging adults understandably don't want to surrender their independence or admit they need help from their children. Having conversations about finances, day-to-day tasks and long-term wishes can cause a lot of tension, especially between the siblings who are caring for their parents. Bruce recommends that siblings divvy up tasks and keep the lines of communication open, that no conversation should be too taboo to discuss openly.

You may have heard the phrase "helicopter parents," a pejorative term indicating that we're being overprotective of our kids.  Well, Bruce says when it comes to dealing with elders in need we become "tugboat children," pulling them along and helping them get by.  While the physical needs are critical, emotional needs are just as important and Bruce says we must try to keep elderly family members socially engaged in the world around them.  Activities like taking them to movies, playing cards and asking questions about their lives help them feel more involved and validated.

The good news is many of us are living longer, fuller lives.  The challenge is to keep those later years as healthy and happy as possible, and planning ahead is the key.