The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast has published a book describing her parents’ last years as they fell into disability and dementia in their 90s. A difficult couple to have as parents, taking care of them through their denial and her conflicting emotions of obligation, guilt and resentment also induced great conflict and anxiety.
After her mother fell twice in their Brooklyn apartment and her father became increasingly confused, Chast helped them move to a facility near her home in Connecticut which she calls “the Place.” There she describes the high school like antics of the other residents, some of whom wouldn’t let her parents sit at their dining room tables.
In Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, nothing comes easy, whether its talking to her parents about their future plans, helping them move, cleaning out their apartment or providing them the necessary care.
At one point in the book Chast, an only child, takes her parents to see an elder law attorney (presumably a New York practitioner) who specializes “in the two things that my parents and I found it most difficult to discuss: DEATH and MONEY.” Her parents need basic estate planning documents — a will, an advance directive, and a power of attorney. (The latter triggers a great deal of anxiety and “trust issues” as her mother recounts the story of friends who gave their daughter all their money and the daughter quickly turned around and placed the couple in a nursing home.)
Of course, Roz Chast, who catches the anxieties and conflicts of all children caring for their parents (except for those who are also in conflict with their siblings), tells her story much better than I can. Click here to see more of her drawings.
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