Take My Hand Again: A Faith-Based Guide For Helping Aging Parents, by Nancy Parker Brummett
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
Reading this book fills one with a lot of conflicting emotions. For one, there is a sense of frustration at the author’s contradictory purposes. It appears as if the author cannot decide whether to urge most Baby Boomers to avoid seeking a multi-generational home because it is too stressful or to avoid skilled nursing facilities, the new euphemism for nursing homes, because of the horrors of elder abuse. In many aspects, this is a book of two minds, one mind of which is a dutiful and respectful Baby Boomer dealing with a self-reliant and elderly parent whose decline is becoming too serious to ignore, and the other mind of someone in denial about the demographic and cultural curses that have led to our current crisis in senior care. Although the book claims to be a faith-based guide, it mainly is a secular guide, informed mostly by psychology and gerontology, with most of its few biblical quotes limited to the chapter headings, and a non-biblical discussion about heaven that fills a few passages where the author speaks about sharing faith with aging parents who did not wear their beliefs on their sleeves and may have been reluctant to share their beliefs, and another passage that talks about the need to forgive.
In terms of its contents, the book is organized in a very skillful manner. It begins with a discussion on the changing of roles that happens when a parent ages and adult children have to parent their elderly parents, looks at some of the key decisions that need to be made: where are parents to live, are they going to be able to drive, what friendships need to be preserved and built, and then examines what happens to the aging mind and body. After this sobering material comes more lighthearted material on staying young at heart through learning and adventure and celebrating old souls. After this comes more sobering material on taking care of the elderly, dealing with long distance family relationships, leaving a legacy for future generations, and letting go of a parent after they have died. Although the book assumes a Baby Boomer reading audience, there are plenty of younger people like myself who have dealt with this problem, albeit not necessarily very well, if our parents died young and were fairly old when we were born in the first place. It would have been nice for the book to speak more to younger audiences and male audiences who may have different perspectives than the narrowly focused target audience of this book.
Despite the fact that this book is filled with useful information I can only recommend it with serious reservation. There are several ways in which the book’s advice and perspective are seriously problematic. Although the book clearly and properly ties together our horror and revulsion at child abuse along with elder abuse, showing how abuse is most rampant at either end of life where people are at their most vulnerable, it fails to connect the demographic crisis of too few younger people trying to take care of too many elderly with the scourge of abortion, and with the breakdown of the family that has made being fruitful and multiplying successfully a difficult task. Additionally, the book uses and praises a lot of left-wing sources like AARP and the New York Times and a research institute connected with the Carters, something that is highly troubling. To add to the interrelated troubling aspects, this book urges its readers to commit Medicare fraud by ensuring that seniors’ hospital visits are coded as in-patient rather than under observation (p. 118) so that the taxpayers foot the hospital bill. These interrelated problems suggest that in key ways, the author’s misguided political worldview leads her astray from writing a truly godly and faith-based guide, making this a work that has to be read with an eye to its generational and political biases, and appreciated despite them, in a limited way.