Minding Our Elders contains six stories of my own, plus twenty stories obtained through interviews with other boomers struggling to keep up with the needs of their aging loved ones, and not go crazy doing it. One woman is in Georgia, caring for parent in New York. One man is in San Francisco and was caring for his dying father in Florida. The setting for the rest of the interviews is Fargo, North Dakota.
- Carol Bradley Bursack
Prologue - The prologue brings the reader along on one of the author's daily visits to the nursing home where both of her parents and her mother-in-law reside. It also explains the purpose of the book, that of sharing the often poignant and sometimes amusing stories of adult children attempting to usher their elderly family members and friends through their last years.
Fly Away, Joe - Chapter two is the author's story of her friendship with her elderly, widowed, completely deaf neighbor during the five years prior to his death.
Susan - Susan's story tells of her struggle to come to terms with her mother's increasing senility, and the frustration of being the main caregiver, even though she must travel to reach her mother, while her siblings, who live in her mother's city, simply don't have the time or inclination to help.
Cynthia - Cynthia tells of her move from Las Vegas to Fargo so she could take on the role of primary caregiver to her dying father.
Bill - Bill, Cynthia's husband, tells of bringing his aging mother from her home in Wyoming to live near him so he could help her through her last illnesses into death.
Julie - Julie tells her story of flying back and forth from Atlanta to New York to help her parents through their age related problems during the time she was trying to help her children (and herself) adjust to major life changes.
Wilkes Finds Marion - The author tells of the aging of her childless aunt and uncle from Virginia, their eventual move to the author's town, their decline and deaths.
Ann - Ann's story reflects the intense frustration felt when the youngest of a group of siblings never totally separates, and becomes the primary entertainer of and caregiver to her aging parents.
Janice - Janice tells of the pain of watching her mother descend into severe dementia, and of having to make the decision, with the help of supportive siblings, to ignore her mother's life long plea and put her in a nursing home.
Roger - Roger tells his story of being youngest, a self-admitted mama's boy, and taking over the role of caregiver to his diabetic and Alzheimer's afflicted mother.
Diane - Diane's story illustrates the love felt and hardships endured to honor an aging, cancer ridden aunt's wish to stay in her own home until she dies.
Remembering Milton - The author tells her story of how she tried to help her dying father-in-law and the way she tried to help him understand that he wouldn't be forgotten.
Shirley - Shirley began with the needs of her dying father and has continued to deal with the changing needs of her healthy, but aging mother in Montana.
Mary - Mary, the ultimate caregiver, tells of her near daily visits to help her mother and talks of how much she'll miss the routine when her mother is gone.
Don - Don's story is one of lifelong love for the mother of a friend, and how he tried to help her die.
Emily - Emily and her husband spent every weekend for fourteen years driving nearly an hour each way to her parent's town and back to help them live, and finally, die.
What Happened to Brad? - The author tells the story of her father's failed brain surgery, consequent personality change, and her attempts to enter into his world and give some peace to his last years.
Elaine - Elaine tells of her seventeen years of in-law care, most of which was in her own home.
Merrie Sue - Merrie Sue tells of the long drives to visit her ailing mother and eventually her none too beloved step-father, finally putting both to rest.
Steve - Steve talks of his love-hate relationship with his prima donna mother and his conflicted need to care for her in her old age.
Nancy - Nancy comes from a large, caring family that shares the task of caring for the ailing mother.
Alice in Wonderland - The author tells of her mother-in-law's slide into dementia while in her own home, her great increase in quality of life upon entering a nursing home, and her slow decline since a near fatal fight with pneumonia.
Michelle - Michelle tells of trying to care for a dying aunt, in-laws, mother, and eventually beloved step-father, while coping with a sometimes psychotic child, the step father's remarriage and alcoholism and the loss of her rightful property.
Karen - Karen's story is of her aunt's decline into dementia, of finally bringing the aunt into her home, of the stress of removing her and placing her in a nursing home, and the aunt's eventual death.
David - David, a San Francisco resident, tells of his adored father living in Florida, of finding out the father has cancer, of trying to set up suitable care, of long distance worry and finally of the father's death.
Kay - Kay, a recovering alcoholic from an abusive home stumbles upon a lonely widow. They become fast friends until Kay, with a broken heart, watches her friend die.
Baby Ruth - The author tells of her mother, the youngest and last of the author's aging relatives to enter a nursing home. A huge step toward closing out an entire generation.
Epilogue - The author speaks of her gratitude to her readers for listening. And speaks of her hope that the stories will be of help to those that are facing similar struggles.
"Each person we meet on life's journey makes up a part of who we are." - Carol