"They’re Your Parents, Too: How Siblings Can Survive Their
Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy" by Francine Russo

Review by Rich O'Boyle, Publisher
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"They’re Your Parents, Too: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy"
by Francine Russo

Book Review: “They’re Your Parents, Too: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy” by Francine Russo

Francine Russo has diligently researched the published literature as well as interviewed professionals such as gerontologists, psychologists, geriatric care managers, and attorneys. The heart (and soul) of her book are the frank and very real case studies with siblings involved in challenging caregiving situations.

“They’re Your Parents, Too” offers the time-pressed reader with practical advice on topics such as:

  • Deciding who in the family should take the lead in financial, medical, and caregiving matters;
  • Balancing the contributions of siblings who have different skills, proximity to the parent(s);
  • Understanding and accepting the unique emotional challenges that dementia creates in a family;
  • Coping with re-emerging childhood rivalries, feelings of guilt, unresolved parent-child relationship issues; and
  • Ensuring – in the midst of this emotional whirlwind – that your parent(s) get the best possible care without driving you and your siblings crazy.

This book is a real eye-opener to human nature. As adults, we often assume that we know ourselves and others well. Russo illustrates so many case studies where our assumptions are not always accurate – where our distance from or proximity to our parents makes it harder to clearly see the ongoing dynamics. She lays out the fantasies we play out in our minds, and the guilt and anger that ultimately gridlock our ability to address the sibling issues in a healthy and constructive manner.

The book is organized chronologically through the stages of the caregiver’s late life journey. In the context of sibling and parental issues, Russo calls these changes and adjustments the “Twilight Transition.” She has extensively interviewed professionals and extended families to provide a thorough and practical guide to navigating the difficult emotional terrain between siblings and their aging parents.

Some readers might find the heavy attention to psychological analysis off-putting, preferring quick practical advice on how to resolve specific issues. It might be painful to see in print an objective professional call us to task on our own bad behavior. But if you are reading this book, you are probably open to at least acknowledging your own shortcomings, and taking some steps to amend them.

Rest assured this foundation in understanding our inner motivations and actions is necessary. I don’t think the author is suggesting that a quick read of her book will solve any number of problems – many of which are rooted in decades-old patterns – but that a better understanding of ourselves can open the door to better care for our loved ones and possible closure to uncomfortable issues.

Thankfully, Russo gives us practical strategies to deal with the 265 pages of challenges. I do encourage you to read the book cover to cover because these practical items are worth the time and energy. Resist the urge to skim or skip sections. The case studies are so very revealing – again, even if the particular scenario might not be immediately relevant, you should read them regardless for the wisdom they provide and the possible future reference.

This book comes very highly recommended. I have read just about every caregiving book that has been broadly published in the last 10 years, and this one deserves a place on the shelf, and in the pocketbook, of every caregiver, and their siblings.

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Recommended Readings
- Truce: Ending the Sibling War by Janet Bode
- Sibling Rivalry: The Truth About the Family Favorite by Vera Rabie-Azoory
- The Sibling Bond by Stephen Banks and Michael Kahn
- Why Can't We Get Along?: Healing Adult Sibling Relationships by Peter Goldenthal
- Sibling Revelry: 8 Steps to Successful Adult Sibling Realtionships by Joann Levitt
- I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road From Estrangement to Reconciliation by Laura Davis

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