They’re Your Parents, Too! by Francine Russo is all too relevant for many baby boomers coping with their aging parents and siblings.

Russo notes that this is the first generation that has had to so frequently manage their parents’ long term illnesses -which may last for decades.  This places a strain on sibling relationships that may already be fraught with unresolved rivalries.  Dysfunctional sibling/parent relationships can be unaddressed for many years only to erupt when everyone is forced to deal with emotional and critical issues.

Some families are able to navigate this very painful terrain, respecting those that have been the primary caregiver(s); many would benefit from a third party such as a social worker or doctor, according to Russo, who has interviewed many, many families. She advises lots of honest communication and attempting to understand the points-of-view of others. It’s never an easy journey, but it can be made bearable if siblings support each other.

Alzheimer’s. It’s a disease most of us would rather not think about, much less read about. Still, I’ve just finished reading a lovely book entitled Measure of the Heart: A Father’s Alzheimer’s, A Daughter’s Return by Mary Ellen Geist. Perhaps I was drawn to it because my own mother had Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the black and white photo on the cover brought back memories of me walking with my mom. Still, I approached it with a degree of ambivalence. Did I really want to read this and risk drudging up a very sad time? Well, I’m glad I did. It was not at all depressing, but rather a touching and tender tribute, reinforcing my own experience that caring for our loved ones can be both and a blessing and a privilege.

As I watch the leaves fall to the ground, it seems appropriate that November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. If you’re interested in learning more about this affliction, I would recommend The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins, currently in its 4th edition. This is a virtual bible for caregivers, and one I relied upon heavily.

Another interesting read is Voices of Alzheimer’s, The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength, a compilation of personal anecdotes and experiences, edited by The Healing Project.