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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  701 ratings  ·  150 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
...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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Jill
May 05, 2011 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
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Karen
Jul 31, 2011 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
Ann
Aug 01, 2011 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
Deborah
May 31, 2011 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
Noreen
Jan 18, 2014 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
Cindy
Mar 17, 2016 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.
Jamie
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book saved my sanity when my mother became unable to manage her life after a perfect storm of physical, mental, legal, financial, and marital issues in a short period of time. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Like the author says in this book, you should read it before you need it, but most likely, if you're reading it, you're in the middle of a big, stressful, confusing change in your family. This book is full of details that I was able to immediately use, especially when we beg ...more
Molly Sutter
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part memoir and part guidebook, this book was at times too much for me. It's a lot of information to handle, and certain sections will require a re-read. Overall, it's a thorough introduction to this time in the lives of older parents and adult children. I enjoyed the parts about the author's relationship with her mother and brother the most. Our loved ones and our dignity (hopefully) are what we have left, in the end.
Kate
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gross takes her experience of caring for her aging mother and shares it as both a personal memoir and a resource for navigating the system.
Dominic Wong
I find this book not very relevant for people who don't live in the United States.
Jill
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it before you need to. That is to say before your parents are 70 years old. Recognize this book for what it is: advice from a friend, a way to process experiences from that friend, and a great place to begin thinking about, and more importantly, planning for, the inevitable. While some data and laws my be out dated, the absurdity and red tape described, are not. Not an uplifting read, but an inspiring one.
Karen
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
Tori
Mar 19, 2012 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
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Kim
I read about 55% of the ebook version. I got to chapter 10 before I quit. There are plenty of more useful books available on the subject.

The book is mostly a memoir of the author's experiences with placing her mom first in assisted living and then in a nursing home. She describes herself as a caregiver, but she really never had to provide much hands-on care for her mother. She and her brother hired others to do that stuff. The author practically had a nervous breakdown when she had to buy Depend
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blmagm
Aug 20, 2012 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
Allison
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
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Linda
May 30, 2011 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
Christine
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
David
Jan 22, 2012 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
Connie
Jun 20, 2015 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
...more
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 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!
Alison
Sep 08, 2012 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.
Judy
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone caring for elderly parents
Shelves: mental-health, 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
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Pearl Loewen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bill Catchings
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I had read this book sooner. Jane Gross details her and her brother’s experiences with her aging mother. Their story is both sweet and bitter. Gross describes the tender moments and does not avoid the unpleasant ones. Somehow, she manages to do that while letting through the humor that her family shared during those years. Gross also manages to put in lots of details about things as varied as the intricacies of spending down money to become eligible for Medicaid, the legal issues of paren ...more
Susan
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I suppose this could be helpful if you live in New York and have no idea how to begin caring for an aging parent. I'm about 1/3 of the way into this and just can't finish. I've been through the process of dealing with an elderly parent who could no longer live alone, and I've researched the (limited) options available in my dad's area. Prior to that I'd attended a seminar on aging and finances, so I had some knowledge. I am not claiming to be an expert, but I'm not learning anything here that I ...more
Robin
This was a very difficult read due to the subject matter. But, the writing was excellent and it's a very important topic, though something few people want to think about. I learned a lot about their complexity of care for the elderly as well as the realities of our current system independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care. This knowledge has helped inform me about some of the decisions my family is going to have to make in the future.

Having recently been hospitalized and having e
...more
Lajet
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
HIGHLY recommend, for everyone. It's about her experience wiht "the system" (numerous systems) as her mother became more and more limited. I have friends who read the book and found it depressing. I listened to the audiobook, and although the topic is depressing and sobering, I found it engaging. I think the reading of it helped. It was the author reading it, and she read it as she experienced it. I think it helped. Interspersed with the sad things you heard her chagrin, her laughing at herself, ...more
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