Caring for our Parents


When my mother-in-law died suddenly and my seriously ill father-in-law was left with no one to care for him, my wife and I were thrust into the complex and overwhelming world of long-term care. Just months later, my own father fell sick, and we struggled to help him too-from 1000 miles away. Over the next year-and-a-half, we faced one crisis after another, as each day brought new pain, but also surprising rewards.

We didn’t know it then, but my family had just joined one of the least exclusive clubs in America. It is a silent society-one whose members rarely know one another and almost never discuss their struggles. Many, in fact, are convinced they are alone, although this club has tens of millions of members.

Today, as many as 44 million Americans care for more than 10 million elderly and disabled friends and relatives. Some are seniors caring for spouses. Others are adult children helping their elderly parents, or even teenagers assisting disabled siblings. They are all races. Some are rich. Some are very poor. No one is immune.

Someone you love will almost certainly need long-term care services before they die. Nearly 70 percent of our parents will receive such help sometime during their old age-usually at home, though often in a nursing home. It will last for an average of three years, though one in five will need this assistance for five years or more. The costs are crushing-often $75,000-a-year or more. And the weight of 77 million aging Baby Boomers will devastate our nation’s already fragile system for funding this critical day-to-day assistance. How can we repair the tattered safety net that is so essential to our aged and disabled?

Caring for Our Parents tells the sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting, and always compelling stories of the families who struggle every day with the care needs of their loved ones. If you are a member of this club, think you may be soon, or know someone who is, this book offers stories, information, inspiration, and hope. It also presents new ideas for how America can do a better job both providing this care and paying for it.