For millions of Americans caregiving is the “new normal.” For Laura Katz Olson, a respected researcher of long-term care for the aging, Elder Care Journey chronicles the disruption of her world and how it is upended by the ever-increasing long-distance needs of her own mother.
A healthy, Senior Olympics medal winner, Olson’s mother is slowly and steadily incapacitated by Parkinson’s disease and a gradual loss of vision. Thrust into a long-distance caregiving role, Olson finds her previous academic notions about assisting a frail parent increasingly at odds with the reality of the lived experience. In a narrative full of “ah-ha!” moments, tears, sighs, and outrage that will be familiar to many, Olson opens a window into the nursing home and home care industries that consume much in the way of taxpayer dollars, but often fail to deliver quality care. Olson’s personal story vividly demonstrates not only the overwhelming bureaucratic barriers faced by care-dependent seniors but also their beleaguered adult children’s attempts to ensure their parents’ health, safety, and well-being.
“After losing two siblings, Laura Katz Olson is left singularly responsible for her physically active and lively mother, Dorothy, a thousand miles away, both young at heart and eagerly bicycling everywhere, but increasingly limited by the normal process of aging. Being an expert on aging and health care, Olson is at first confident as she tries to let her mother ‘age in place.’ More than anyone, she believes, she should know what to do. Shuttling between Florida and Pennsylvania, Olson settles into a crushing routine, and with each visit she finds incremental downward change in her mother’s health. Pulled by daughterly guilt at times, but also a wellspring of love, Olson is frank about the resentment she sometimes experiences.
“With a unique perspective that links the systemic flaws in our policy approach to elder care to real-world experience, Olson exposes the challenges we all face or are likely to face. More than a personal story, but nevertheless an extremely compelling one, the book should be read by those confounded and frustrated, and by those without direct knowledge of what quietly repeats itself millions of times a day.” — Miriam Laugesen, Department of Health Policy and Management, Columbia UniversityNew Health Ideas