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Book offers practical roadmap for helping older parents

In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol explains why "When Your Aging Parent Needs Help" could be a great resource for all aspects of parent care.

Carol Bradley Bursack updated column sig for online 10-21-19.jpg
Carold Bradley Bursack, "Minding Our Elders" columnist.
The Forum

Dear readers: Recent columns have offered digital resources that can be helpful with parent care. This column is also about an invaluable resource — and fortunately, this is available in both print and electronic versions.

"When Your Aging Parent Needs Help: A Geriatrician’s Step-by-Step Guide to Memory Loss, Resistance, Safety Worries, and More" is, in my opinion, the best practical guide for caregiving available. Written by geriatrician Leslie Kernisan and Paula Spencer Scott, using this guide should provide you with confidence that you can move forward with all aspects of parent care from effective communication with older adults in general as well as those living with dementia to financial and end-of-life planning.

Full disclosure: I moderate a paid caregiver community for Kernisan that’s an offshoot of her highly respected website, Better Health While Aging . This book is a separate project of hers. Visit her website at www.betterhealthwhileaging.net .

While the enormous amount of information contained in "When Your Aging Parent Needs Help" could be overwhelming if presented by someone less skilled, Dr. K, as she’s known to her patients and readers, has a talent for making information accessible, even friendly.

"When Your Aging Parent Needs Help" is divided into four parts:


  • Taking Stock: Why we always start here, gathering key information.
  • Taking Aim: A roadmap of what should happen next (even if it rarely works out this way).
  • Taking Action: Putting together what you’ve learned, to plan and attempt the next step forward — and what to do when snags happen. (They probably will.)
  • Taking the Long View: Brace for a marathon of ups and downs as you continue your efforts to help (almost always lasting longer than you expect).

Each part of the book is broken down into chapters. Additionally, the book provides sample letters to help you when you need to confer with professionals, as well as downloadable worksheets, symptom-checkers, and checklists to bring to medical visits.
Additionally, resources are offered as you move through the steps, as well as downloadable “cheat sheets” to help you stay on track.


  • Parent doesn’t want to live with adult child and her family — or anyone else In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol says it isn't selfish for someone who prefers lone activity and has a comfortable, safe apartment already to want to continue living alone.
  • Adult child of abuse struggles with perceived caregiving obligation In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol Bradley Bursack advocates for forgiveness, but says no one is obligated to put themselves through emotional hell to help a parent navigate aging.
  • What can caregivers talk about during video or in-person elder visits? In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol says there are online tools and services that can help us learn more about our loved ones and make visits less awkward.

The book's format is set up to keep you organized. You can take it from the start, or you can jump to where you are with your parents right now and then backtrack for information.
Early readers have enjoyed the "What this looks like" feature. These are vignettes showing the “Smiths” and the “Jones” families putting the book’s principles into action.

Dr. K’s deep empathy for caregivers and what they must handle, as well as for older adults who see their lives changing in ways that are unsettling and frequently frightening, shines throughout the book.

"It's not your job to make everything perfect — or even better — for your parent... those goals are often just not possible no matter what you do. Your responsibility is to care and to make a good effort to help." — Leslie Kernisan.

This resource could save you significant emotional turmoil, time and even money as it guides you through each step of parent care. You can buy "When Your Aging Parent Needs Help" on Amazon .

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.

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