Are Your Parents Driving You Crazy?

Joseph A. Ilardo and Carole R. Rothman. Are Your Parents Driving You Crazy?: How to Resolve the Most Common Dilemmas With Aging Parents. . Acton, Mass. VanderWyk & Burnham. 2001. 228 pages.

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There are plenty of books about how to cope with elderly parents who require a great deal of care or who suffer from illnesses like dementia. This is a book about dealing with the problems that often plague the adult children of perfectly competent and generally functional parents. Perhaps a parent refuses to stop driving, ignores the doctor, or avoids discussing end-of-life issues. Or maybe the needs of an aging parent are straining relations with other family members.

In helping adult children resolve issues like these, the authors -- both mental health professionals who specialize in family dynamics and communications -- start off with general, tried-and-true advice on the realities of caring for aging parents and communicating more effectively with them.

They then turn to a proven problem-solving model they have developed and refined in their therapeutic work. The model includes a series of questions aimed at clarifying the problem, strategies for identifying alternative solutions, and a matrix that allows adult children to evaluate the various options side by side.

After explaining their model, the authors show how it can be applied to twenty-five of the most common dilemmas adult children face, including "My father can no longer drive safely, but he refuses to stop," "My mother clearly needs to see a doctor, but she refuses to do so," and "My husband resents my father's demands on me."

While its likely that adult children of aging parents can relate to at least a few of the twenty-five dilemmas, the point is that the problem-solving model can be usefully applied to any troubling issue a child of aging parents may encounter.

The book's rather flippant title notwithstanding, the authors are quite sensitive to the needs and feelings of elderly parents as well as their children, and their insightful advice is clear, straightforward, and respectful of all involved.