MIRRORED LIVES: Aging Children and Elderly Parents by Tom Koch

MIRRORED LIVES: Aging Children and Elderly Parents

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This isn't how it's supposed to end""--the plaintive cry of aging Norm Koch--is the theme of this often chilling account by free-lance journalist Koch of the closing years of his father's life. Drawing on notebooks and letters, Koch documents his father's transformation from a retired widower whose self-esteem is nurtured by his role as a hospital volunteer into ""a member of the battalion of invisible ill, a soldier in the forgotten, geriatric legions."" As the father's life disintegrates, so does the son's. Taking on the burden of his father's care, Koch soon finds his own career and private life in a shambles, his relationship with his brothers strained, and his love for his father severely tested. Except for the nurses and homecare aides, few in this unhappy tale come across as heroic. The father is demanding, angry, self-pitying, and seemingly obsessed with money, while the son reveals his own lapses into despair, self-righteousness, and frustration leading to near-violence. Along the way, Koch reaches some conclusions about the effects of long-term geriatric illness on both the elderly and those closest to them. The final chapter includes recommendations on preparing for a loved one's protracted, progressive illness. Some suggestions are obvious, such as to plan ahead while the elderly are still healthy and able to make their own decisions. Less obvious is the suggestion to designate individuals to carry out the separate roles of primary care-giver, financial surrogate, legal surrogate, medical surrogate, and community surrogate. Koch offers other practical advice and provides a helpful bibliography. A disturbing description of life in the twilight zone, and a useful adjunct to the volumes available on death and dying.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Praeger