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A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and Ourselves

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  517 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
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 a
ebook, 368 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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May 05, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2011
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, a
Jul 31, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heard the author of this book, Jane Gross, on the American Public Radio show "Being" and realized she had gone through what I am going through now. My mother is 90 and living in an assisted living facility. She is in a wheelchair, but reasonably cognizant. Certainly not on death's door, but one has to admit the door is not too far from opening. In the meantime, all the stresses associated with this had been weighing on me. Deciding to buy this book may have been one of the smartest things I've ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard Jane Gross on NPR, and she has a blog on old age ("The New Old Age") on the New York Times web site. This book is about the complexities of caring for aging parents. She explains why "aging in place," everyone's ideal situation, isn't possible for very many; how many of the very old (85 plus) reverse migrate from sunshine retirement places to assisted living homes and nursing homes closer to their children; and she explores the realities of dying at 85 plus (that you can "rot away" as yo ...more
May 31, 2011 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About a third of the way into 'A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and Ourselves,' Jane Gross recalls a conversation with Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center, that ended with her "crying in regret for all the now-obvious things I could have done differently. . . . Now, in choosing to guide others through this process by revisiting my own family's experience, the old dust was flying and tears came easily and often." Combining the skills of a seasoned ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Noreen rated it really liked it
I decided to read this after spending two weeks with my 86-year-old mother this past December and noticing a shocking increase in her cognitive impairment. I'm afraid I was short with her a number of times and I feel guilty about it. I searched the net on the subject of being more patient and compassionate with elderly loved ones and found The New Old Age Blog on the New York Times website, written by Jane Gross and two other reporters. I shopped for books and this one seemed perfect. I remember ...more
Elizabeth Schlatter
This is a pretty fantastic book, because somehow the author has managed to take this frankly depressing subject and provide both an incredible resource and a touching memoir that is as surprisingly readable as it is helpful. Each chapter details stages from a period in Gross' life in which she and her brother cared for their aging mother, starting from when they moved her from an independent living, older community in Florida to ultimately a nursing home in NY. Within each chapter Gross discusse ...more
Jane Gross writes three books bound in one: 1) She's processing her mother's journey from independent living through assisted living to skilled nursing and finally to death's door. Gross wonders if she made correct decisions and if she responded appropriately. The book give incredible detail about her feelings as well as the pragmatics of her mothers situation. 2) She's writing a guidebook for other adult children, hoping to help them avoid pitfalls that she and her brother Michael fell into in ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Tori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must for anyone with an aging parent or spouse. Jane Gross speaks from her own experience of moving her mother to NYC, looking for a retirement home that is "nice" and also affordable. Her mother had some physical problems that made living alone in the SouthEast no longer feasible.

She writes that "assisted living' is a joke! Every "assist," like helping to get dressed, to bathe, changing linen, light housekeeping...all cost extra.

Gross became so stressed from her fulltime job at t
Aug 20, 2012 blmagm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was driving on my way to church, listening to NPR. An interview with Jane Gross caught my attention, and when I arrived, rather than hopping out of the car, I waited until the conclusion of her talk- a "driveway moment," as they are called on public radio pledge drives. Jane writes a blog for the New York Times on caring for the elderly and has written a personal account of caring for her own mother in A Bittersweet Season. I ordered it from Barnes and Noble and eagerly awaited its arrival. It ...more
This powerful depiction of one family's experience with aging resonated deeply with me. As a millenial who is still (hopefully) a decade or two away from starting to deal with these issues, it was hard to face the realities many experience but also good. This book, in conjunction with (yes) Atul Gawande's Being Mortal is at the very top of my recommendation list.

As a journalist by trade, Gross knows how to research, tell a story, and neither over-dramatize nor under-tell. She brings life to an
Anyone caring for elderly parents or who will get old themselves (who could that be?)will probably benefit from reading this book. Perhaps denial is human nature but it seems there is a lot of wishful thinking or willful ignorance about what happens in our modern American society around aging and death. One example the author cites ilustrates the problem. A physician expert on geriatrics was addressing a Hastings Center gathering and began by asking, "Who here expects to die?" There were a few n ...more
May 30, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good resource for a particular subset of readers. Although some of Jane Gross' excellent research can be applied across the board, her family had financial resources not available to the average consumer, so her experience was far from average. Still, this book is an excellent education in walking the final walk with one's parent(s), from the point at which s/he is no longer independent until s/he dies. I wish that I had read it several years earlier, as my mother no longer has the mental ...more
Jan 22, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody with an elderly parent
This is a truly excellent book for anyone who has an elderly parent. Think of the book as a personal guide for helping your parent (and yourself), for finding and dealing with an appropriate home for your aging parent, and interacting with your siblings. The book details the author's personal dealings with a wide range of issues, including interacting with doctors, aides, staff members, nurses, and other support people, and learning about all the financial aspects. You can learn from the author' ...more
Jun 20, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Gross has written part guide, part memoir, and almost part "novel" about the end of her mother's life and the way it affected her and her brother.
It's a wonderfully written book-I came away realizing that I had learned more than I realized about available resources, coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and both what to do and what not to do when dealing with aging relatives.
It's an upbeat book in spite of, or maybe because of, its subject, and Gross is unfailingly honest about how cari
Mar 17, 2016 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing. Rambling and repetitive. Seemed like the author was using the book as a vehicle to resolve her actions caring for her mother. The information was minimally relevant and I am not sure if that was due to my experiences, living in the Midwest vs New York, or the copyright - 2011. I think some things have changed in the long term care environment. I got much more from the book "On Being Mortal" that is helping me care for my aging and ill mother.
John Benson
Jane Gross has combined a self-help book on caring for an aging parent along with a memoir of the last three years that she and her brother spent taking care of their dying mother. The two parts don't always work together very well. I think the memoir portion is more successful. Still, it was a book that gave me much to think about as I, along with many others, have to consider the lives of our aging parents and their care in the future.
Joan Newcomb
Jun 03, 2013 Joan Newcomb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very supportive when I was caring for my dying mother. Although it did not address my personal issues (I was her hands on caretaker), it held valuable information about medicare/medicaid, nursing facilities (which we didn't use in my mother's case), sibling involvement (mine were 'hands off'), and VSED. Strongly recommend it for anyone with aging parents!
Sep 08, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do yourself a favor - READ THIS BOOK! I wish it had existed when I was caring for my dying mother. Gross provides a wealth of information for navigating Medicare and caregiving.
May 30, 2011 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone caring for elderly parents
Shelves: health, mental-health
I appreciate her honesty. I don't agree with her about assisted suicide but found her book extremely helpful.

p 13-14: My mother wouldn't have welcomed my intrusion, but I should have been pushier...But I like our family's rules of (dis)engagement because they made my life easier.

p 26: He [brother] advised including my mother in the conversation immediately, as she was already primed to move north, and this might be the time to address everything at once. Both of us would be happiest if she could
Nov 02, 2016 Jams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, book-club
Everyone everyone everyone with living parents should read this book. This information is needed and valuable.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
A must-read for anyone with aging parents. This book is the author's account of her mother's journey into assisted living, hospital stays, and finally into nursing home care. It is an emotional ride filled with practical advice for the reader about how to negotiate the bewildering health care system, retirement costs, and Medicare/Medicaid rules and regulations.
May 13, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: baby boomers with elderly parents
Part memoir, part informational, A Bittersweet Season, is very readable. The book recounts author, Jane Gross' experience in the last few years of her mother's life. Some of the information I already knew, or is too late for me, but there is a lot of good, practical information here. But what touched me most was the sharing of the author's personal experiences and feelings as she went through her mother's decline. Though Gross's mother and her limitations are very different from my mother, there ...more
A refreshingly unflinching and unsentimental (rather like the author's mother!) guide whose advice I fortunately have not yet had to put to the test myself. However, it seems like excellent reading both for elderly parent and adult child to help with preparation for difficult conversations and decisions. My main quibble is that as someone with no children herself, and whose sources on this particular topic all seemed to be upper middle class professionals, Jane Gross really should have steered c ...more
This book was a real slog, partly because of the topic, which is important but pretty grim, and partly because it was repetitive and the author is a bit whine-y. Still, it tackles the subject with great honesty and is worth reading if you are in the midst of or about to begin caring for a dependent parent.

Jane Gross describes her experiences taking care of her mother, who moves from Florida to the New York area when her health starts to decline. Jane and her brother, Michael, do their best to ar
Aug 04, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: death-and-dying
Part memoir, part advice, Jane tells the story of her mum's slow decline and what she learned from it. She discusses funding (Medicare v. Medicaid) and the maze of trying to get her mum's care covered. She discusses the stigma of going "on welfare" and how in the end, Medicaid didn't really pay for very much after all. She discusses how to plan for and cope with an elderly patient's needs, though her advice is definitely from her own experience of someone fairly well off. The most validating (th ...more
Sheila Gardner
Jan 06, 2014 Sheila Gardner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents--and Ourselves

Exposing huge gaps in my own understanding of the aging process, this book helped me to explore this part of the circle of life and the necessary choices boding before the older population, both hidden and known. Some of the craziness swirling around in government regulations and in our healthcare system,added to how all of it intertwines with caregiving for the elderly, left me stunned and confused. The author attempts to navigate
Homewood Public Library
Mar 04, 2012 Homewood Public Library rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Baby Boomers, Anyone caring for aging family members
Shelves: nonfiction, aging
Telling the story of her mother, Jane Gross offers important advice for adult children responsible for an aging parent. She writes the weekly New York Times blog: The New Old Age, a helpful guide for anyone in the unfamiliar and challenging territory of caring for an aging parent.

The author integrates her personal experience-a widowed mother with growing health problems, the awkward role reversal of parent and child, conflict between her day job and care giving - with a comprehensive resource fo
Apr 06, 2012 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Knowing that we were experiencing a crisis with aging parents different friends started to say, there's this book you have to read. It was Alison Krupnick who gave the title. Everyone was right this is the book that anyone with parents needs to read (or friends with parents). As the author Jane Gross states, if you're reading this book it's probably because you are in crisis. This was one of the most informative and yet accessible books I've ever read (forget What To Expect When You're Expecting ...more
Kay Carman
It took me quite a while to get through this book, but it was worth it. When I first read the subtitle, "Caring for Our Aging Parents - and Ourselves," i thought it meant that I'd receive good information on preparing for aging myself. Since both my and my husbands parents are deceased, that was the only part I needed. And having also read Jane Brody's Guide to the Great Beyond, I sense a pattern here - not of being obsessed with death, but bound and determined to be as ready as I can be. Severa ...more
Sep 01, 2011 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is a book for people who will care for their aging parents, although most who read it, pick it up after the "Bittersweet Season" has ended. I now understand better why my mother-in-law referred to the aging in the critical care lock down area as, "those people". It is too close to home, obvious demise of her own impending end. I found the chapter on necessary fibs familiar. I now have a better appreciation of the Assisted Living facility who cared for my mother-in-law. I did not have Jane G ...more
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“The lesson in my friend’s observation is that the line moves. What had once seemed unendurable to an aged parent, and still does to us, the adult children, changes. They come to tolerate the formerly intolerable and to surprise us with their forbearance. Diapers, it turned out, were not the end of the world. Nor was a wheelchair, despite initial resistance. Millimeter by millimeter the line was moving, as it would many times more.” 1 likes
“All the very old people I know, and the vast majority of those who commented on my blog, see long life as a blessing only if they are reasonably functional and not at the mercy of others to get through the day. Once they reach that point of helplessness, with only the rarest exception, they want out.” 1 likes
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