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A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and Ourselves [Kindle Edition]

Jane Gross
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $10.96
You Save: $4.99 (31%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Just a few of the vitally important lessons in caring for your aging parent—and yourself—from Jane Gross in A Bittersweet Season

As painful as the role reversal between parent and child may be for you, assume it is worse for your mother or father, so take care not to demean or humiliate them.
Avoid hospitals and emergency rooms, as well as multiple relocations from home to assisted living facility to nursing home, since all can cause dramatic declines in physical and cognitive well-being among the aged.
Do not accept the canard that no decent child sends a parent to a nursing home. Good nursing home care, which supports the entire family, can be vastly superior to the pretty trappings but thin staffing of assisted living or the solitude of being at home, even with round-the-clock help.

Important Facts
Every state has its own laws, eligibility standards, and licensing requirements for financial, legal, residential, and other matters that affect the elderly, including qualification for Medicare. Assume anything you understand in the state where your parents once lived no longer applies if they move.
Many doctors will not accept new Medicare patients, nor are they legally required to do so, especially significant if a parent is moving a long distance to be near family in old age.
An adult child with power of attorney can use a parent’s money for legitimate expenses and thus hasten the spend-down to Medicaid eligibility. In other words, you are doing your parent no favor—assuming he or she is likely to exhaust personal financial resources—by paying rent, stocking the refrigerator, buying clothes, or taking him or her to the hairdresser or barber.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


“[Gross is] an incisive reporter with a fine eye for detail . . . A Bittersweet Season is sure to become required reading for anyone with an elderly parent who depends on long-term care.”
            -Associated Press
“This is tough stuff, and Gross writes movingly about the toll it takes on her and other caregivers. Although her tone is often darkly humorous, she’s serious about documenting the often hidden workload borne by middle-aged daughters and sons.”
            -Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
“An invaluable guide . . . One thing is for certain: Individuals, families, medical professionals, and our society’s institutions have a pressing moral duty to reform our failing systems of care for the fragile old and dying. Jane Gross’s excellent book can help us do better on all these fronts. Middle-aged adult children can read with their parents and help prepare themselves and each other for the inevitable. Families can be encouraged to have those difficult conversations. Jane Gross has taken her own painful experiences and worked hard to give needed help to us all.”
            -Sidney Callahan, Commonweal
 “In A Bittersweet Season, Jane Gross combines her unique perspectives as a health journalist, daughter and caregiver to unflinchingly explore the last phases of her mother’s life and death. Interwoven with this inspiring personal narrative are practical, hard to access, vitally useful lessons and information she learned along the way. One way or another the issues and circumstances vividly portrayed in this book will be faced by us all, so we would do well to use it to help us contemplate the inevitable and prepare as best we can.”<b...

About the Author

Jane Gross was a reporter for Sports Illustrated and Newsday before joining The New York Times in 1978. Her twenty-nine-year tenure there included national assignments as well as coverage of aging. In 2008, she launched a blog for the Times called The New Old Age, to which she still contributes. She has taught journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Columbia University, and was the recipient of a John S. Knight Fellowship. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Age is a Massacre April 2, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a memoir about the final years in the life of the author's mother - AND a guide to the Rube-Goldberg-like complexities of Medicare, Medicaid, assisted living facilities (great for those who need no assistance), and nursing homes. It's about how the system is broken - a ridiculous maze of conflicting and unrealistic rules that (unsuccessfully) try to make a for-profit health care system humane. It's also about how, as Phillip Roth put it, "Old age isn't a battle - it's a massacre."

The number one killer in the US is heart disease - number two is cancer. After a motley assortment of other diseases causing "early" death, we are left with that large group where everything is wearing out but the body refuses to die. This group is subjected to endless serial humiliations - physical and financial. Even if older couples enter their golden years with a million dollars they can die bankrupt and on Medicaid. Enlightened ones might even plan for it and give their assets away early. The wealthy and the destitute have less to worry about.

Gross definitely gets it right. My wife and I (mainly my wife - as Gross succinctly points out, the primary family rep is female at least 80% of the time), are going through this for the third and fourth times now. We have faced or are facing most of the issues she covers. Her chapter about Thanksgiving dinner in the nursing home (touching on a pecking order resembling a high school cafeteria) was perfect. She could have been describing our exact facility - with one dining room for those who could use a fork and another for those who required "feeders." In her words, "The elderly hate that you have to visit them in these surroundings on a holiday, so act like you're having a decent time even if you're not.
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ripped From The Headlines Of My Life May 6, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The worst nightmare of most adult children is that their parents will die a lingering death, suffering a drawn-out and humiliating series of losses and depleting all financial reserves. Yet somehow, we think, "It won't happen to OUR family."

Wrong! In Jane Gross's important new book, she reveals that approximately 40 percent of Americans, generally past the age of 85 will follow this course - and that number will only grow with improvements and prevention and treatment of cancer, heart disease, and pulmonary disease.

Those of us who are baby boomers - used to being in control - must stand by and (as one of Jane's bloggers stated), "watch our mothers un-live." Yet we are stuck in a medical world where old age is considered a disease with a cure...when in reality, precisely the opposite is true. There ARE no heroics and there IS no cure for aging. Jane quotes Dr. Sherwin Nuland in saying, "The very old do not succumb to disease, they implode their way into eternity."

This one is PERSONAL for me. Like the author, I was thrust into an unanticipated role of moving my vibrant mother halfway across the country to a senior facility nearby. It upended my life, causing never-ending cycles of guilt, resentment, frustration, overriding terror and exhaustion - along with the days of feeling unaccountably blessed to have the chance to be a part of my mother's world again. I trusted my intelligence and management skills and believed I was making all the right choices. I wish I had read this book two years ago! Among the insights that Jane Gross reveals:

*The Medicare fee-for-service system is broken. To get paid, doctors must recommend a billable procedure; recommendations on lifestyle changes, for example, translate to no payment.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is particularly pertinent to me. My Mom is 84 and has just moved to be near me and lives in an independent living facility. However the author points out, if you are in your 40s and your parents are in their 70's it may be time to have that difficult conversation on how they want to finish out their days. The story starts out, with the author Jane Gross moving her Mom from Florida to NY state to be near her after some medical issues. This book tells of her ensuing struggles and mental angst that we will all face someday.

If you are in your 30's-60's and have living parents, this book will provide you one example of what you may well face as your parents age. There are many questions and choices that have to be made. This is a combination memoir and cautionary tale of the end of life struggles in our and our parent's futures. The author writes of what she went through with her Mom very specifically, but also provides information and discussions on aging in the US.
Some things unique to the author and her Mom, that she acknowledges:
* The author's Mom knew it was time to move nearer to family, there was no resistance. This is not the most common situation.
* The author's Mom was of sound mind and quite practical.
* The author's Mom purchased long term care insurance and had assets of her own
* The author had a brother who worked with her at this time
* The author and her brother have upper middle class jobs
* The author and her brother are childless
* The author and her brother live near New York City, so prices as well as availability of services were high.

To many of us, this situation is much better than we will face.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars yeah you should read this if you have aging parents or planning for...
An easy and fairly quick read with invaluable insights and information for those faced with planning potential caregiving strategies for aging parents.... and ultimately yourself. Read more
Published 4 days ago by john s
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult subject handled with respectf and compassion
This is an excellent book both factual and moving in the storytelling of the author's own journey. None of us are prepared for taking control of our parents lives and Jane Gross... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Nancy Seus
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bitter Sweet season: Caring for our Aging
Impressive , well written for beginner and experienced alike, to be consulted or read over and over again: Bitter Sweet season : Caring for our Aging,
Published 1 month ago by Richard T. Thio
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a gift to yourself at a difficult time
I recommend this book to anyone. If your parents are getting older, you'll find it a comfort and a guide. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Margaret FitzSimmons
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extremely helpful!!! Well worth buying it!
Published 2 months ago by carolyn rippee
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard decisions in uncharted waters
This is a very new field and has lots of land mines for those of us who are in this situation to navigate around. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Hangdog
4.0 out of 5 stars I can totally relate!
I have senior relatives and feel the slow death experience. So sad that the end of life ( if you live long enough) is torture. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alesia G Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend
I highly recommend this book if you have aging parents. Your parents may be independent now but what do you do once they can no longer live alone? Read more
Published 6 months ago by N. Spaseny
5.0 out of 5 stars Important for anyone caring for the elderly
This is a well written book with much useful information. Although a sad topic, it was handled in such a way that it felt more like a novel than nonfiction. Read more
Published 7 months ago by ez plunk
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all!
Excellently written book on a most important topic. It reads like a novel yet will have great application for all of us - who doesn't know an aging person (including ourselves)?!?! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Christine Waclawski
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More About the Author

Jane Gross, founding blogger of "The New Old Age'' at the
New York Times,'' was a correspondent there for 29 years and preciously a reporter for "Newsday'' and a researcher at "Sports Illustrasted'' magazine. "A Bittersweet Season,'' (Knopf/Vintage) is her first book. You can follow her more recent work on aging and caregiving on the "Bittersweet'' fanpage on Facebook at


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