We Need to Talk About Mum & Dad: A practical guide to parenting our ageing parents

Suzie Eisfelder
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This book is really new, it was only released two months ago, you might have seen it come across your radar some time in this time frame. I love Jean Kittson as a comedian, I find her very funny. I had no idea what to expect from a non-fiction book from her. Reading the preface I cringed, if the book was going to follow that comedic format with little useful information I thought I might regret buying it. But I gave her a chance and found that the comedic asides were just enough to relieve the tension and make it easier to process the absolutely enormous amounts of information within this book.

There is a lot of commonsense in this book and a lot of nonsense. The commonsense comes from Kittson and some of the people she’s spoken with to get information or stories. The nonsense comes from the rules and regulations. Government…eye rolls.

This book is laid out in a fairly straightforward manner. There are many chapters, each one covers one segment of what you might consider you need to know. If you read through this book with a notebook in hand, or even your computer you can make notes about which parts you’re going to take advantage of and which parts you need to know about in the near or far future. I didn’t have the notebook in hand and I’ll need to reread it to make notes. But I’m thinking of making my notes online so I can share with siblings.

The first chapter sets out what you’ll need and that includes a notebook to write everything down and keep copies of all paperwork. In fact, the instruction ‘write everything down’ is used a few times, as is ‘keep copies of paperwork’, or ‘get two hundred certified copies as you’ll need them for the two hundred institutions’. I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but maybe it’s not…

And from there you have lots of informative chapters. In each one you get useful information, an appropriate story, places to get lost in the muddle of more information and then the Key takeaways from that chapter. The appropriate story is not necessarily from her parents, there are stories from other people as well. Kittson has also interviewed experts and sometimes she’s shared their words as the concept is really too involved.

One thing I tookaway from this book is the form my Mum was trying to fill in some time ago. It’s a medical form and gives some indication of what her wishes are with various types of health situations. Mum failed third year med school many, many years ago, she then went on to teach biology and geology at high school, she has a good understanding of the human body. Even with this background she had issues understanding the medical stuff. What Kittson mentions in the book is that Mum needs to visit her doctor and spend 50 minutes going through each question in detail so she can write down how she wants the medical profession to deal with her in each situation. Because it’s fine while she still has brains and is not comatose, she can still understand and make a decision, but if she gets dementia or is in a coma then the decision is taken out of her hands and whichever relation happens to be nearby can make a decision for her. I can’t remember the name of the form and there’s so much in the book that I can’t find it without reading the entire book from after the Preface. But the form is freely available from the post office or the chemist, probably the post office as they have many different useful forms.

The key takeaway from this book is that if you have aging parents you should start planning now. Don’t wait until they’re sick or hard of hearing, start now. Get those documents in order, talk about death, make sure they have a will, keep the siblings involved, keep the aging parents involved. What I noticed is that Kittson doesn’t tell you what age you should start this process, it could be something I could start on my own accord and just give my family access to my thoughts and documents. And I’m only 18, my kids don’t believe me, but they pretend to do so.

This book as the abc through to the xyz, as well as the aa ab in fact the entire spreadsheet past zz and beyond for all the things you need to prepare to help your aging parents through to the end of their lives and slightly beyond. I recommend it because it’s funny and useful, I don’t recommend it because it makes us think of ageing and ill health. You make the decision whether you want to read it or not, but just look at the Booktopia link.


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