Challenges of ‘sandwich generation’ explored in Del Mar Heights resident’s book
Dr. Ken Druck’s latest book provides advice to adults experiencing the decline of aging parents
Psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Ken Druck likes to joke with his friends’ children, saying, “It’s not easy raising a parent.”
Yet, that is no joke for many adults facing the challenges posed by aging parents. That realization came to Druck following the 2017 publication of his book “Courageous Aging: Your Best Years Ever Reimagined.”
In community workshops in which he discussed the book, he repeatedly heard of the struggle middle-aged and older adults encounter with parents experiencing declining mental and physical health.
Plus, the 70-year-old said in a recent interview at his office by Los Penasquitos Lagoon, he had his own experiences with aging and caring for parents, now deceased, on which to reflect.
“There are hundreds and thousands, if not millions, of sandwich-generationers who are squeezed between caring for an aging parent or two and having families of their own, having careers and companies they’re trying to build, and they’re trying also to stay healthy and have a life, and they’re not having a life anymore,” Druck said.
“And in many cases,” he added, “the pandemic of memory loss to Alzheimer’s and dementia is also creating ... demands on caregiving that are unprecedented.”
Out of those discussions, Druck understood he had another book to write. “Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life” was released earlier this month on Redwood Publishing.
Sparking his ambition to write another among his numerous publications was the birth of his twin grandsons.
Druck was already well established as an acclaimed psychologist, author and television talk-show guest when his 21-year-old daughter died in 1996 in a bus crash in India.
In her honor, Druck formed the nonprofit Jenna Druck Center, specializing in supporting bereaved families and training young women to be future leaders.
In the aftermath, Druck was called upon to offer counseling to those grieving the loss of loved ones in such tragedies as 9/11, Columbine, the Boston Marathon and Sandy Hook.
The birth of the grandsons — Stone and Andrix — was transformational, Druck said.
“I’ve spoken for 23 years about unspeakable losses, and there are unspeakable joys,” the grandfather said of the twins’ birth. “So life turned in the other direction, and the theme of this last year has been new life, because a book wrote me, too.
“I didn’t write a book this last year. A book wrote me. A book just came through me through what I’ve been experiencing.”
The 209-page volume is essentially a how-to guide for the “sandwich generation,” a.k.a. SanGen, the term for adults caught between the demands of caring for both their children and parents.
Druck offers observations, analysis and suggestions, often based on his own anecdotes and those of acquaintances, with the goal of turning the dilemma into a fulfilling, meaningful experience.
Druck said he himself recognized what a parent’s aging process can mean to their children when he saw his daughter react to seeing him limp around following a knee operation.
“I saw the look in my daughter’s eyes that I probably had in my eyes as I watched my mom get older in very significant ways,” he said. “There was kind of a sadness in my daughter’s eyes — ‘Oh my God, my dad’s not going to live forever.’
“It’s been a year in which this ‘My parents are getting older’ conversation was all around me.”
Druck writes in the chapter “Living Losses: Diminishment, Dementia, Dishonor,” that it’s often necessary for those vexed by parental dysfunction to vent their frustrations as a cathartic experience.
“And as you do so, you might find yourself saying ‘I’m done. I don’t want any part of this. I won’t have anything to do with them. Give me a parentectomy,’” Druck writes.
Yet, for most offspring, disowning parents is not a viable option. Neither, Druck states, is “the torture chamber of guilt.”
“Raising an Aging Parent” offers practical, positive choices based on compassion and love.
The second-to-last chapter, “The Infinite Finality of Death” addresses emotions one feels upon a parent’s death and includes what Druck labels as the six honorings, which he describes as a “road map to healing.”
“Summoning the strength, courage and faith to turn the love that became sorrow back into resilient love is one of life’s great miracles,” he writes.
For more information, visit www.kendruck.com. “Raising an Aging Parent: Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life” is available on amazon.com.
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