A must read book for all adult children facing the challenges of caring for aging parents. Lessons of of inspiration, courage, hope and joy. A Son’s Journey is the essential resource guide for the adult child.
In this interview, Kurt discusses the essence of the book and outlines what adult children will learn and how put the information and tools to work now.
The cycle of life results in a role transformation between adult children and their parents.
Having our parents show us their courage, determination and faith as they age.
To do the difficult things to keep your parents safe, secure and independent as they age.
Losing your loved one without understanding all the things you could have done to richness the quality of their life’s as they aged.
Celebrating life together as a family.
Accepting all the changes your parents experience as they age and embracing their aging journey with empathy, companion and caring.
Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate how stressful the aging and subsequent deaths of my parents, Conrad and Helen, would be. I thought being a nurse and health-care professional would make it easier. It didn’t. The same thing goes for my brother Garrett, a respiratory therapist. We simply didn’t comprehend the physical, emotional and financial tolls of caring for our parents. Neither did we know where to look for help and support. I figured if my brother and I, both of us in health care, had a hard time dealing with all these challenges, how were other people dealing with the myriad issues of home-health and end-of-life care? The feelings of helplessness and the loss of control in trying to care for an aging loved one was not something we had thought about prior to our parents falling ill. Yet, that’s one of the main reasons I wrote this book.
I was driving home from a Detroit Pistons basketball game in November 1996 when I received a call from my mother saying that Dad had suffered a stroke. My life changed forever at that moment. This started a 20-year journey for my brother and me as we dealt with my father trying to recover from his stroke, while being cognizant and respectful of Mom as she aged. Our journey was filled with many unknowns, lots of tears and, most of all, genuine love, as we cared for our parents.
As I drove home that cold November night, flashback memories of my father, mother and brother filled my thoughts. I grew up on the west side of Detroit, where I went to Redford High School. I received my bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Mercy College in Detroit. I came from your typical middle-class family. Mom was a school teacher and Dad worked at Detroit Receiving Hospital in the shipping and receiving area.
My early years truly formed my life in health care but I didn’t know it at the time.
My brother Garrett and I never had to have the hard talk with our parents about giving up the keys to the car. Dad’s debilitating stroke and rapid decline until the day he died a few months later kept us from having to broach this difficult topic. It was just understood his days of driving were over. And my mother, God bless her, gave up her keys on her own one day, saying it was time she not drive anymore. That was a pleasant surprise for my brother and me. This was a good thing, as one of the last times I drove with my mom, I was telling myself it was time for that talk! You should have been in the car with me. Let’s just say it was a wild ride.
My mother wasn’t one of those typical “old lady drivers” who go 25 in the fast lane on the highway. On the contrary, she drove like a race car driver on the Indianapolis Speedway! Now I know where I got my lead foot! I am certain that if she would have kept on driving, she would have hit something or someone one day with such a great deal of force that she would have done a lot of damage. But my brother and I never had to have that tough conversation with her, thankfully. We did, however, speak to her about getting a caregiver to come into the home when she needed some assistance. In retrospect, we should have had that talk with her much sooner. Thousands of families are faced with having these types of conversations with their elder parents. I hope this chapter will help you and your loved ones by giving you the tools to manage this type of discussion and others.
My mother started to have short-term memory issues at age 83, three years before she died. Unfortunately, this is all too common an occurrence as we age. One day, while I was at my brother’s house visiting my mom, my brother Garrett told me Mom was starting to become forgetful, mostly in the form of asking the same questions over and over again. For example, she would ask, “Did the mail come?” and it had come. Or, “Did Karla call?” and Karla had called just an hour ago and, “Is it time for dinner?” and she had just finished eating. Mom’s long-term memory was still strong, thankfully. Mom didn’t have Alzheimer’s but nonetheless, her memory was starting to diminish.
Seeing all these changes occurring in Mom during her 80s was unsettling to me and, I must admit, I was in a state of denial with most of them. The thought of my mother starting to decline in any way was upsetting to me. I felt helpless! Denial was my defense mechanism. Unfortunately, “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.” Denial, for me, however, was a much cleaner and easier way for me to deal with what was happening to my mother. My brother, on the other hand, was much more realistic and in tune than me to what was going on with our mom. I guess living with her made it hard to avoid the signs and symptoms. My brother Garrett actually helped me be more comfortable with the changes occurring in Mom.
I will remember this day forever. It was Monday, June 11, 2012, and a beautiful summer morning. I was in my office enjoying my second cup of green tea when my mobile phone rang. It was 11:10 a.m. and the display showed it was my brother’s home phone number. A flash of panic went through me, as I knew my brother was working and mother was home alone that day at the house where she lived with my brother. I quickly answered the phone and my mother said, “Son, I fell and hurt myself. Please come here now.” Her voice was shaky and I could hear the fear in her voice. I remember I became faint and nearly passed out from a surge of panic in my body. I have never heard my mother’s voice like that and it scared the hell out of me!
I called my brother at work and then drove right over to my mother’s place with a staff person from my office. My mother was sitting on the sofa in her robe with a small gash in her forehead and her face all covered with blood. I nearly fainted again. I couldn’t tell how bad she was hurt or whether she had broken any bones. My mom was shaking all over, as the fall had totally frightened her. I remember I nearly started to cry, not so much for what just happened to her but for the fact I saw my mother as I have never seen her before. She was so vulnerable looking. I knew she was hurt and could only imagine her fear and what she was going through. As a nurse, I also knew that falls are usually the start of a sequence of decline in some seniors.
I am ashamed to say that both my mother and father died without the gift of hospice.
I am ashamed of this because both my parents were eligible for hospice under Medicare guidelines and we did not access this valued resource. Further, I work as a hospice professional and should have known better. My mom and dad, as well as my brother and I, could have benefited greatly from the gift of hospice.
Hospice is one of the best-kept secrets that can make an end-of-life journey more peaceful, as opposed to filled with drama and pain. As I wrote about it in chapter one, it’s hard to be both a caregiver and a loved one. It was so obvious that my parents could have benefited from hospice. Instead, because I was trying to be a loved one and caregiver at the same time, their needs when right over my head. So again, I wonder how people with no healthcare experience deal with such challenges.
This chapter will help you understand better how hospice and palliative care can help you and your family members de-mystify all the false assumptions around hospice and how to select the best hospice for you and your loved one.
Throughout my journey of taking care of my mom and dad, I have gathered many useful resources and pieces of information that I would like to pass along to you. This chapter contains 100-plus helpful tips, tools and resources to help you on your journey of taking care of your loved ones, including:10 Tips for Communicating with a Person with Dementia10 Helpful Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
-10 Things You Should Know About Your Parent’s Finances
-5 Important Things Your Loved Ones Should Put in Writing
-The Top Questions to Ask a Personal Care Home Health Company
-Common Medical Conditions for People Over Age 65
-Helpful Resources on Medical Conditions that Affect the Elderly
-10 Helpful Tips About Taking Medication
-Proper Nutrition for the Elderly
-Mental Health Concerns in Seniors
-7 Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers
I fell in love with Svetlana in 2007 when I went to Moscow to meet her. I’ll tell you more about that a bit later. I didn’t realize at that time, however, that my relationship with Svetlana would lead me on a wonderful journey experiencing life and love in Russia and Ukraine and resulting in expanded business opportunities. You see, Svetlana is the major reason that I developed First Home Care, a personal home care company in Moscow. I have been fortunate to have visited Russia and Ukraine more than 30 times over the past 15 years.
During my time in Moscow, I realized that the issues of aging, and all the family challenges related to that, are worldwide and not just exclusive to the United States. Pain, suffering and grieving affect us all, no matter what country you live in. This last chapter tells of my journey throughout Eastern Europe and into Asia and the impact it had on me.
As I started my exploration of Russia, I learned so many interesting things. For example, in 1992, a very unusual trend emerged in Russia: There were more deaths than births. The reason for this is not only because of the aging of the Russian population but the de-population that was caused by the profound catastrophic events of the 20th century, including two world wars, the Russian civil war of 1917-1922 and famines in the early 1920s and ’30s. These catastrophes have distorted the population pyramid in Russia so much that the typical age distribution and balance between male and female in the population is skewed more toward women. In fact, the huge loss of life during World War II caused Russia to have the lowest overall male-to-female ratio in the world, especially among the elderly. The irregularities of this pyramid will continue to have an impact on the number of births and the rate of population growth and aging for several decades. This pattern affects such vital spheres as school enrollment, employment, retirement and care of the aging population. It also spawned the international dating industry in Russia and Eastern Europe.
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See what others are saying about A Son’s Journey
“This is a beautifully written and compelling story about the impact of aging family members. We all have faced or will face these types of decisions. Understanding that there are resources and services that help to not only provide guidance and support but make the transition easier benefits everyone. The story being told from a personal point of view explaining the challenges and the benefits of services available makes the issues more personal and understandable for people who are faced with decisions about their loved ones. I would recommend this book to all family members.”
"As a home care owner myself, I can honestly say that this book was spot-on accurate. It was incredibly well-researched, informative and kept my interest. The way the author was able to interweave the story of his parents with helpful advice was nothing short of brilliant. I found the book to be a fantastic read while being both entertaining and informative. It is clear that the author is an expert in his field, and sharing his knowledge with his readers is a true gift. I've read a number of books about home care and caregiving, but this one clearly stands at the top of my list."
"I read this with very little personal experience caring for a loved one who was in need of the types of care written about in this book. As my father ages, I feel I now have a manifesto for his future healthcare needs. This book is easy to read, informative and a tremendous resource for symptoms to look out for. While I don't look forward to this time in his life, I now feel better prepared and informed of the myriad of resources available to families who might otherwise not have known where to turn for help. Bravo to Kurt for sharing his experiences and knowledge. A must read for anyone with an ailing parent."
" As a Board Certified Physician in Geriatrics and Hospice and Palliative Care and and a physician who cares for homebound elderly patients, I found this book a must read for adult children caring for a loved one. Many of the topics that Kurt addresses I find universal in caring for the very aged population. Many of the children of my patients are facing the challenges Kurt outlines and he provides sage advice on ways to manage difficult situations. A Son’s Journey provides a wealth of information and the stories told are very heartfelt and inspiring. I especially liked the chapter on the Gift of Hospice as it demystifies hospice and shows how hospice care truly is a gift to be offered. I also liked the chapter on how to talk to aging parents about difficult but necessary topics. This book was enjoyable to read and relevant. I encourage anyone who is caring for an aging loved one to give consider this an excellent reference."
"What a wonderful read! Kurt does an excellent job of providing critical information and resources to aid in the difficult situation of elder parent care. His ability to weave in personal experiences and provide a compassionate perspective for the caregiver makes you feel like he's a good friend who knows exactly what you are going through....and he does! As someone just beginning this journey with their parents, I found the information in this book invaluable. Understanding options, signs of caregiver burnout, and resources available to me will allow the transition to go more smoothly and hopefully alleviate some of the guilt I'm sure I will experience. I have recommended this book to many friends finding themselves in the predicament of being a caregiver to their parent or parents. I also believe my parents will gain much by reading this book and understanding what they may experience as well as understanding my siblings and my perspective. I truly enjoyed getting to know Kurt from his stories and learning about the history of palliative health care. And I have even more of an appreciation of the advantages I enjoy living in this tremendous nation. I'm sure everyone will benefit from the wealth of information provided and find the presentation enjoyable and easy to read."
Kurt speaks to audiences and groups to share his lessons learned, stories of inspiration and the hundreds of helpful suggestions held in his book, A Son’s Journey: Taking Care of Mom and Dad. Kurt Kazanowski is an accomplished speaker, author and presenter. He has a passion for sharing solutions and ideas on a number of challenges facing adult children taking care of their parents. His presentation style includes humorous stories, difficult experiences and life-changing events that will make his presentation to any audience heartfelt and memorable.
Kurt is available to speak at your next event about the aging of America and caring for an elderly loved one. Audiences will learn how to deal with the complex issues involved with the aging of a loved one from his own personal journey as he cared for his aging parents and coping with their eventful death. To book Kurt for your next event, call 734.658.6162 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the topics Kurt covers in his presentations include:
How difficult it is to be a caregiver and a son at the same time.
How to have “the talk” with your parents about their aging so they remain safe, secure and independent.
Ten things you need to know when hiring a caregiver to help take care of your parents.
The challenges in caring for a loved one with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Giving the gift of hospice and the de-mystification of hospice.
Preventing falls and how falls can be a life change event in your loved ones life.
The secrets to helping your parents age gracefully.
The aging of America and the worlds and what that holds for all of us.