The U.S. population is aging and we often rely on our family to care for us during our twilight years. But, families today can be quite complex, with divorce, step-families, and cohabitation changing the roles that family members are used to playing. In their new book, Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss
(Oxford University Press, 2017), Amy Ziettlow
and Naomi Cahn
interview families caring for a parent at the end of life and write about how these new norms and obligations are navigated in modern families. The book addresses many issues that become apparent at the end of life: family roles, financial as well as time costs, in addition to the planning (or lack thereof) for decisions that need to be made at the end of life for the parent. After the parent passes away, roles, once again, must be negotiated in families in addition to negotiations around wealth transfers and mourning.
This book would be a good addition to an upper level Sociology course on families or death and dying as the stories help illustrate some basic concepts and ideas. This book has a wide audience and would be of interest to sociologists, gerontologists, lawyers, as well as clergy or other religious leaders who help with end of life care. Ziettlow and Cahn not only provide interesting stories to illustrate what they find, they leave the reader with helpful tips and guides at the end of the book just in case the person reading it is also going through this life transition with a family member.
Sarah E. Patterson is a Family Demographer and is ABD at Penn State. Follow and tweet her at @spattersearch.