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Book Review: Aging parents

“Aging Parents” by Dorothy Hansen and Betsy Sherry (Elderly Parent Resources, 205 pages, $20)

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

A few years back, sisters Dorothy Hansen and Betsy Sherry were plunged into caregiving when their already weak, confused mother fell and fractured her pelvis.

They had to find her a new home, negotiate with family members over the details of her care, figure out her finances and learn how to rearrange their mother’s life while still respecting her values and desires.

As the sisters explain at the beginning of their book “Aging Parents,” they quickly began to wish that they could find a handbook for dealing with the medical and personal maze in which they found themselves. When they realized that no such book existed, Hansen and Sherry decided to write it.

Subtitled “The Essential Resource Guide for Peace of Mind,” their book is concise, thorough and simple to use. Its longest chapter is the first, in which they discuss various changes that may come with aging — from temporary dehydration to chronic illness — and possible causes and consequences of these changes.

The authors go on to talk about strategies for discussing care with elderly parents, medical and legal issues and the various options available to elderly people in terms of housing.

They counsel caregivers to get support, to find a way to bring all family members on board slowly and gently, to keep their eyes open for safety hazards to the elderly and to ascertain parents’ wishes about the end of life.

The book concludes with a summary of all the resources outlined in previous pages as well as several helpful lists.

As I read the book, I found myself wishing I had been able to draw on it during the years I spent caring for my parents and grandmother.

The authors are medical professionals; Hansen is a doctor of psychology and Sherry is a nurse. Their language is simple and straightforward rather than technical, however, reflecting their experience as lay caregivers.

Each section of the book lists many resources for the topics it covers. The sisters lead the reader toward organizations, stores and websites that can help with shower grab bars, living wills, family mediation, finding medical help and much more.

“Aging Parents” is a rich, valuable book for elder care. The authors offer information and strategies in a user-friendly format. Above all, they offer common sense — a commodity that tends to fly out the window when caregiver stress knocks on the door.

Talk Monday

Hansen and Sherry will talk about their care-giving journey and the book it inspired on Monday, April 28, at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center on Main Street in Shelburne Falls. The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call the center at 625-2502.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” (www.merrylion.com) and “Pulling Taffy” (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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