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Baby Boomers love their children and many remain active in their now-adult children’s lives. That means Boomer parents are right there if and when their children become ill. But for a generation that has carved its own way on many matters, on this issue Boomers seem a bit unclear as to how to support their sick adult children.
Toledoans Patricia Ringos Beach and Beth E. White took note of the dilemma and did something about it. The health-care professionals are the authors of In the Shadows: How to Help Your Seriously Ill Adult Child, published last year by Hygeia Media, the publishing arm of the Oncology Nursing Society. It was selected as the American Journal of Nursing 2013 book of the year for consumer education, Ms. Beach said.
“Over the years, as I’ve been in oncology nursing, I would see patients whose parents were trying to support them. Health-care professionals didn’t know what kind of role parents could play once the children were adults,” said Ms. Beach.
In fact, she struggled with some of the issues herself when her youngest daughter became seriously ill. Health-care authorities “didn’t know what or how much they could tell me,” she said. So she decided “to write a book to give parents advice on how to help their adult child who is ill.”
Ms. White added, “Boomers are very interested in our children. We have all kinds of things about how to be good parents. But the advice stops when our children get to be college age; there is not a lot of advice. This book is an effort to help parents find the road to understanding how to parent an adult child and to know what might work.”
As health-care professionals, both women have witnessed some of the anguish parents encounter. Ms. Beach is a clinical nurse specialist in oncology and palliative care. Ms. White is a pediatric clinical nurse specialist. Both work at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.
The 251-page book gives advice to parents for when an adult child is sick, Ms. Beach said. It also addresses the issues of physical, emotional, financial, and other care. Additionally, it offers guidance on navigating the health-care system.
Ms. White said that though parents want to give their adult children advice, “It would be better to keep some things in mind. Keep the lines of communication open. Understand that your child will make the final decision, and it’s important to respect that decision.”
Ms. Beach said adult children told them they want to be treated by their parents as adults.
“And I would think the advice from the many parents we talked to would be to take care of yourself, and if you say you’re going to do something, then you have to do it. If you say you will take the [grandchildren] to practice and walk the dog, you have to do it. It helps build trust,” Ms. Beach added.
Moreover, the authors said that though ambivalence is normal in parent-child relationships when the children are grown, “It’s not uncommon or bad to have feelings of ‘I want to support you and I don’t agree with what you are doing,’ ” Ms. White added. “Nobody says this out loud, that the parents love their children more than the children love their parents. In knowing your role, you can be a financial support and spiritually, there can be growth on both sides.”
Ms. Beach said they hope the book will increase awareness among the offspring of Baby Boomers.
“This is about you,” Ms. Beach said about the younger generation. “Try to see how is it best to include your parents. Do you want to be the one to tell your parents the news? Are there things you can ask them to do to let them continue to be a presence in your life?”
The other side of the story is that parents must realize that there may be other important relationships in the life of the child.
“It’s a real surprise to parents [to learn] that they are no longer the next of kin. When they marry, that spouse is the next of kin,” Ms. Beach said. “The advice would be to recognize that your parents are still part of your life, and the parents must respect the child as an adult.”
Interestingly, Ms. Beach also said that the love “is mutual but not equal. Beth and I while writing this recognized that there are very dysfunctional relationships out there. We made the assumption that someone picking up the book does have a loving relationship with their children and wants to help.”
The book can be purchased from Barnes & Noble and amazon.com. The cost ranges from $15 to $20, and is a little less in a Nook or Kindle version.
Contact Rose Russell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178.