Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

When Roles Reverse: A Tender Look at Caring for Aging Parents

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful book called When Roles Reverse: A Guide to Parenting Your Parents by Jim Comer. Jim tells his story in a tender, matter-of-fact, and candid manner.

Following his father’s massive stroke and his mother’s Alzheimer's diagnosis, Jim found himself an overnight parent at the age of 51. He was a single professional enjoying life in Los Angeles when he received the call. Jim, an only child, jumped on a plane to Dallas and his world changed. While he was used to being the man who had all the answers, he soon learned that he didn’t even know the questions.

He tried to manage their care from a distance, but soon realized he needed to be closer, so he picked up his life and moved to Dallas. In When Roles Reverse, he shares the joys and sorrows over ten years of living the questions and learning the answers. He learned to deal with assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers, and insurance companies, as well as his father’s deafness and his mother’s increasing dementia. Through it all, he managed to keep his sense of humor and develop a more intimate relationship with his parents.

I’ve been struck by the compassionate respect he shows, even when his life was obviously frustrating. In the process, he shares tips for dealing with aging parents, care facilities, and life. At the end of each chapter is a list of “Comer’s Commandments” that synthesize the main points. Although Jim isn’t a Gen Sandwicher, he has a lot to say to us about doing the right thing with panache.

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